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World's Largest Swimming Lesson to be held amid rise in drownings

By Chris Benson
People cool off near a fountain at Washington Square Park in New York City on Wednesday. An excessive heat watch is set for Friday through Sunday across large parts of New York and New Jersey as the heat index approaches 105 degrees. The World's Largest Swimming Lesson will be held Thursday to prevent drownings as more people hit the water to stay cool. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 4 | People cool off near a fountain at Washington Square Park in New York City on Wednesday. An excessive heat watch is set for Friday through Sunday across large parts of New York and New Jersey as the heat index approaches 105 degrees. The World's Largest Swimming Lesson will be held Thursday to prevent drownings as more people hit the water to stay cool. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

June 19 (UPI) -- As the summer heat swells, the World's Largest Swimming Lesson event on Thursday will hold its 15th anniversary celebration in an effort to raise worldwide awareness on the importance of teaching kids and adults how to swim and "Be Water Aware." Recent government data has revealed an uptick in drowning deaths after years of decline.

The 24-hour event "coordinates the efforts of hundreds of aquatics facilities around the world to teach participants basic water safety skills and spread the message Swimming Lessons Save Lives in local communities to help prevent drowning," according to the organization.

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Drowning is the leading cause of death for toddlers ages 1 to 4 in the United States, and a new study finds drowning rates were the highest for this age group.

Locations on Thursday are expecting more than 39,000 kids and parents on six continents to join the one-day event, WLSL said. The event time will vary by location.

The global event will take place at waterparks, swim schools, pools and other aquatic facilities in 44 of 50 states and other countries, such as: Australia, Bahamas, Benin, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico, Qatar, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

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Dollywood in Sevierville, Tenn. will be offering free admission for some of its Splash Country visitors on Thursday, while Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Penn. will also join in the event along with Cowabunga Water Parks in Henderson, Nev. outside Las Vegas.

Notably, recent government data has revealed, following decades of decline, drowning deaths are once again climbing in the United States.

In the United States, the 15th WLSL event will take place at multiple locations including West Mesa Aquatic Center in Albuquerque, N.M.; at multiple locations in Tampa, Fla., and thoughout the state; Kingsport Aquatic Center in Kingsport, Tenn.; Zoombezi Bay in Columbus, Ohio; Cranberry Township's Waterpark in Cranberry Township, Penn.; Bryan Aquatic Center in Bryan, Texas; and Juniper Swim & Fitness Center in Bend, Ore.

More than 4,500 people have died from drowning every year between 2020 and 2022. That is 500 more per year than in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The WLSL has served more than 383,000 participants in 53 countries since its 2010 launch by the World Waterpark Association. The massive swimming lesson was designed to raise awareness of the risks involved with water, and the critical importance of teaching kids to swim.

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Research has shown that nearly 40 million adults, or about 15%, do not know how to swim and more than half of all adults, approximately 55%, have never taken a swimming lesson.

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