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Demand for swim lessons rises in Georgia | Here's how to find free or low cost lessons

According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for kids under 5-years-old, and the second leading cause of death for those under 18.

ATLANTA — A record 69 people drowned in Georgia lakes last year according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). That’s more than any other year, since the DNR started tracking drownings in 1999. 

Every summer in Georgia there are also several reported drownings in pools.

RELATED: 'Heartbreaking accident' | 4-year-old boy drowns in Roswell apartment pool, police say

That's why 17-year-old Olivia Haynes said she's grateful her parents enrolled her in swim lessons early. 

“I was put into swim lessons by my parents just to make sure that I was comfortable in the water," she said. "Just knowing that if anything ever would have happened, where I can't stand, I'd be okay.”

Haynes is now a lifeguard at the East Cobb YMCA.

Haynes explained she's seen enough to know that’s not a given, adding "kids overconfident in their abilities to swim, it can end really dangerously.”

According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for kids under 5-years-old, and the second leading cause of death for those under 18.

“Drowning is preventable," explained Becky Shipley, group vice president for the Metro Atlanta YMCA. “In Georgia, it's a southern state, so you might not have a pool in your backyard, but chances are eventually they might want to play on the Chattahoochee, or jump off the rocks, or be at lake Lanier with friends.”

Shipley added she also knows swim lessons can be expensive, which is why the YMCA has launched programs across the metro to reduce or fully cover the cost of lessons for Georgia families.

“We want to make sure that no one is turned away for the inability to pay," she said. "We are on pace to teach 10,000 kids to swim who wouldn't have had access otherwise."

Other organizations like Hope Floats also provide financial assistance for lessons.

Most accept kids as young as 3-months and any age beyond.

"You can start from a little baby or even a grown adult," Haynes said. "It can be really helpful that you know how to swim if you have kids later on that you would be able to help them if they were ever in danger. It's never too late to learn.”

To apply for financial assistance through the YMCA, click here.

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