Los Angeles, CA — Kaiser Permanente and the City of Los Angeles will kick-off “Operation Splash,” a healthy lifestyles partnership that will provide learn-to-swim scholarships to over 6,000 youth, age 7-17, and their parents at 36 pools in lower-income communities citywide. This fun and free program–which also will provide junior lifeguard program scholarships for an additional 600 youth–contains a multitude of socially-positive aspects, including increased access for traditionally low-participating groups, instruction in water safety, and job training for the junior lifeguards.

The kick-off in South Los Angeles at the Jackie Tatum/Harvard Aquatics Center is also the grand opening of the aquatics center, which is being dedicated to Ms. Tatum, the first female and African American general manager of the City Department of Parks and Recreation. Ms. Tatum passed away this year. The opening of the aquatics center is also special to the surrounding community since the Jackie Tatum/Harvard Recreation Center has not had an operating pool for nine years.

Local kids will open the aquatics facility for the summer by going down the new tall winding water slide, provided by Kaiser Permanente as part of its cumulative $1.7 million donation in community benefit funds to the City. They will be getting a one-day jump on others, since the pools citywide open on Saturday, June 20, the day before the beginning of summer.

In teaching more families how to swim and in communicating the importance of pool safety, Operation Splash also aims to decrease the frequency of drowning, one of the leading causes of accidental death among young people, especially for African American and Latino kids, who historically have low aquatics participation rates. For example, nearly 60% of African American and Latino youth cannot swim, which is twice the rate of Caucasian kids, according to USA Swimming, the sport’s governing body. Lifeguards will be available for interviews on water safety.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; City Councilman Bernard Parks, the area’s representative; Dr. Benjamin Chu, president, Kaiser Permanente Southern California; Jon Kirk Mukri, general manager, City Department of Recreation and Parks; relatives of Jackie Tatum; a representative of the LA84 Foundation, which also offers a youth summer swimming program; and residents of the area will be present at the kick-off on Friday, June 19 at 1 p.m. at the Jackie Tatum/Harvard Aquatics Center, 6120 Denker Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90047.