The Lowell Police Department (MA), in collaboration with the Officer Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund, and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, provided free swimming lessons to 50 Lowell youth last month.
The Lowell Police Youth Services Program's Learn to Swim program was held from July 18-29 with children ages 6 to 16 invited to participate for free. Youth were partnered with volunteer swim instructors and learned to be cautious but comfortable in the water, as well as how to swim, float, and safely play in pools.
The program is one of several initiatives organized by the Lowell Police Youth Services Program, which seeks to create opportunities for all city youth. The program oversees after-school activities, athletics, and other ventures that emphasize health and wellness. The Lowell Recreation Department, which also provides swimming lessons to about 200 Lowell youth, provided kickboards and guidance to the program.
"There are so many waterways in the Lowell area that kids and families have access to, but there aren't always lifeguards to protect everyone, so we were interested in doing something with Lowell Police to address this issue," says Richard Sullivan, who worked with Collier on the MIT Police Department. "We were only able to have 50 kids in the program this year, but we are looking to expand this Learn to Swim program more next year. If we save one life through this program, the value will far outweigh the cost."
Sullivan said the Collier Memorial Fund's donation to the program was made in honor of Worcester Police Officer Enmanuel "Manny" Familia, who drowned on June 4, 2021, while trying to save three children who were struggling in a lake.
"I am grateful to our incredible community partners at the Collier Memorial Fund and the Department of Conservation and Recreation for supporting our efforts to help teach Lowell youth to swim and enjoy the water safely," says Interim Police Superintendent Barry Golner. "This program enabled children to learn to swim, while also socializing with other youth, experiencing positive interactions with police officers, and building confidence in themselves."
Candy Osorio, the mother of several participating children, learned about the free swimming program when the police department advertised it on Facebook. Program staff helped schedule her children, ages 11 and 9, at a convenient time.
"They were very helpful and made sure we were able to participate," Osorio says. "My kids didn't want to do it at first, but they actually enjoyed it and also learned about consistency and responsibility."
Brittany Riel, whose twin 7-year-old sons participated in the program, said they sons had a great time and that she appreciates the youth programming offered by Lowell Police. Riel’s 12-year-old daughter also participates in the Lowell Police Youth Services Boxing Program.
"My kids were not very fond of water before but now they are. They're not professional swimmers now, but they swim pretty good and they're no longer afraid. They use the steps they taught and they kick their feet and float," Riel said. "I think it's a great program and they should have it every year."
About the Officer Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund
The Officer Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization established in memory of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, who was killed in the line of duty on April 18, 2013, in the aftermath of the attack on the Boston Marathon. The Memorial Fund seeks to carry on Collier's deep personal and professional commitment to service, connection, and support for others. The Fund awards grants to local public police departments and non-profit groups to support the development and implementation of community programs designed to build connections between law enforcement and the communities they serve. For more information, visit: https://officercolliermemorialfund.org/.