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Hey Michigan City - Name Your Pool!

An IU Health La Porte Hospital Release

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Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins (right), Superintendent of Michigan City Area Schools, is a Hometown Swim Hero, having learned to swim at age 59 by taking personal lessons with Bobbi Petru at the La Porte County YMCA Michigan City Elston Branch. The Home Town Swim Hero contest is now open to all Michigan City residents in 5th grade and older to share their stories and name the pool at the Y.

Michigan City, Ind. – Hey, Michigan City – it’s time to name your pool! A new program that started with a donation from La Porte Hospital in 2015 to the La Porte County YMCA Michigan City Elston Branch has now come to fruition and it’s all about safe swimming.

Last year, La Porte Hospital contributed $100,000 to the YMCA Michigan City Elston Branch so the organization could make upgrades and maintain its pool for the community. As part of the donation, the hospital received naming rights to the pool, but instead, is inviting the entire Michigan City community to weigh in and name their own YMCA pool.

According to the National Vital Statistics System operated by the National Center for Health Statistics and reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1-14 in Indiana. African-American children and those with lower income may be more at risk.

“Michigan City is a vibrant lakefront community, so it’s extremely important that children and adults understand how to swim, and how to use safe swimming practices. We believe the pool at the Y in Michigan City is a key factor in helping the community become familiar with the water, especially at younger ages,” said G. Thor Thordarson, CEO of La Porte Hospital.

“This is a great step forward in helping us break down barriers to why children and adults may not be learning to swim. We are so pleased that La Porte Hospital has taken the lead in our community to make sure safe swimming is a priority, and we look forward to filling our swim lesson classes and offering swimming activities to the community for a long time with this gift,” said Cindy Berchem, Executive Director of the La Porte County Family YMCA. Berchem learned to swim at the Y herself.

The agreement with the Y specifies that the funds be used for pool upgrades and maintenance, and for swimming scholarships and supplies for those who otherwise may not be able to afford swim lessons.

This month, La Porte Hospital and the Y in Michigan City are launching the Hometown Swim Heroes, which will give the Michigan City community an opportunity to name their YMCA pool. The winning Hometown Swim Hero story and pool name will be used as inspiration for a mural inside the pool area – designed and painted by Michigan City High School art students.

The entire event will culminate with the World’s Largest Swim Lesson at Y in Michigan City in June, where our community will strive to beat the world record for the most people participating a swim lesson at once.

Other community partners in the Hometown Swim Hero and 1000 Drops of Water Campaign are the Michigan City Area Boys and Girls Club, and the Michigan City Area School Corporation.

Barbara Eason-Watkins, Superintendent of the Michigan City Area School Corporation, is a true Hometown Swim Hero and shared her personal story about the value of our Michigan City Y pool.

“When I was a child growing up in Detroit, one of my neighborhood friends drowned. Even though I was very young at the time, the incident had a lasting impact on me. I refused to learn to swim, and developed a great fear of the water. Later on, as a teenager, I learned to float during high school pool class but still felt extremely anxious in the water. Finally, five years ago (on my 59th birthday!), I decided it was time to tackle my greatest fear. I reached out to my friend, Bobbi Petru, who I knew had been a swim instructor and lifeguard for many years. Bobbi taught me how to swim, but most importantly, she taught me to have confidence in and around the water. Thanks to her patience and encouragement, I was able to do something I never dreamed I could do. I am so proud that today, I can swim across a pool and I can enjoy Lake Michigan without fear. It’s never too late to learn to swim!”

Community members ages 5th grade and older (including adults) can participate in the pool naming contest by submitting their 100-word Hometown Swim Hero story, plus a suggested pool name of no more than five words.

Submissions should be about any of the following topics:

Your favorite swimming experience

  • How you learned to swim
  • What helped you decide to learn to swim
  • Someone local or famous who influenced you to swim and why
  • Your pledge to learn how to swim, if you currently don’t know how

To submit a story, visit www.lpymca.org/ and click on the events tab to fill out the contest form. Or, print the form HERE and submit it in person at the Michigan City Y, or the Boys & Girls Club. Deadline for submission is March 30. Judges will pick two winners: a winning Hometown Swim Hero story, and a winning name for the pool. The prize will be an individual year-long membership to the YMCA, and the words from the winning story will be incorporated in some artistic way into the pool name mural at the Y.

In April, the committee will launch the 1000 Drops of Water Campaign. A wave contains thousands of drops of water, all coming together to move forward and touch the shore. Likewise, we are all coming together as a community to learn how to swim safely and have fun. Michigan City children in grades K-4 will be able to draw or decorate a drop of water and submit it to judges, who will pick 20 winners. The winning artwork will be displayed at the Michigan City Y in the halls leading to the pool. Stay tuned for details on how to submit that artwork.

For more information about the Hometown Swim Heroes Campaign, visit lpymca.org or call Stacey Kellogg at La Porte Hospital, 219.326.2354.

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