May is National Water Safety Month, so the TODAY family is getting in on the importance of learning how to swim.
Craig Melvin’s younger brother, Ryan, doesn’t know how to swim, so he recently went to a class to learn while his brother tagged along.
Ryan, 36, said he was spurred on because his two children, 4 and 6, love the water and were shocked to find out their father couldn’t swim.
“‘Daddy, you can’t swim? Daddy, you can’t?’” he told Craig about his kids’ reaction. “So I thought, what better time than now to take swim lessons. Again, the kids aren’t afraid of water. And you always want be on the safe side, God forbid something happens.”
Craig also said Tuesday on TODAY that he learned how to swim as an adult in 2008.
Ryan went to the Jeep Rogers Family YMCA in the brothers' hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, to start his swimming journey where kids were on hand as part of a program called Safety Around Water.
“That program is built because the second-leading cause in death in children 1 to 14 is drowning, and also 58% of parents don’t even think drowning is a threat to their children,” YMCA of Columbia aquatics director Amy Dodson told TODAY.
The need to swim is important. Nearly 4,000 people fatally drown in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while 64% of Black people say they have little or no ability to swim, according to the USA Swimming Foundation. Nearly 45% of Black parents have beginner or no swimming abilities, according to the YMCA.
For his lesson, Ryan headed into the pool where Dodson gauged his comfort level and his abilities in the water. He worked through various exercises in the shallow end with a bar float and flippers before he used a kickboard in the deep end, which proved to be a challenge.
“Started panicking, started panicking,” he told Dodson while in the water.
He later told Craig that he was afraid.
“I was terrified. I was terrified,” he said.
“When I don’t feel my feet touching the bottom of the pool, that makes me panic,” he added.
And while he pushed himself beyond his comfort level, Ryan said he has no plans to give up, telling his brother he will continue to take lessons and get comfortable floating, breathing, treading water and understanding how to stay in the deep end.
“That is the end goal — being able to tread water, being able to feel comfortable in a pool that’s 8 feet, 10 feet,” he said. “Being able to be comfortable in a pool that deep.”