Teams of San Diego lifeguards are hitting the beaches with fins in hand as they
launch a weeklong ¢‰âÒFill the Fin¢‰âÂå campaign to raise money for much-needed swim
lessons for inner city youth and to spread the message of water safety.

From Aug. 12 to Aug. 19, lifeguards are volunteering at city
beaches to collect coins and dollars in their bright-colored rubber footwear to
fund aquatic programs at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA in southeastern San

¢‰âÒIt is estimated that 33,000 children ages 5 to 12 who live
in our service area have never taken swimming lessons to develop a healthy
respect for the water. And most do not even have proper swimwear,¢‰âÂå said the
local Y's Executive Director Michael Brunker.

With the help of elected officials and members of the San
Diego Lifesaving Association, underserved kids from Skyline to City Heights may
soon be better equipped with swimwear, aquatic safety training, and swimming
lessons as well as a more memorable summer.

¢‰âÒMany parents and kids in poor and minority neighborhoods
haven't grown up around water and don't have access or the economic means for
swim lessons,¢‰âÂå said San Diego City Council President Tony Young. ¢‰âÒThat's why
they experience a disproportionately higher rate of drowning.¢‰âÂå

In San Diego, drowning is the leading cause of non-natural
death among children under 5, and rip currents, like the recent powerful ones in
La Jolla Shores, are a dangerous reminder of the need to teach swimming and
water safety to area youth.

According to City Lifeguard Sergeant Ed Harris, better
targeted water safety messages and swimming lessons geared toward inner city
kids can help reduce the number of tragedies.

¢‰âÒFrom our Junior Lifeguard to our Water Proofing programs, we
are continually looking for ways to promote aquatic safety to underserved youth
throughout the City of San Diego,¢‰âÂå said Harris, noting that many beach-area
businesses are sponsoring lifeguards in this year's inaugural fundraising drive.

San Diego City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, who represents
the La Jolla beach community and is a strong supporter of improved lifeguard
staffing and training, also is teaming with lifeguards to send an urgent summer
message about water safety and drowning prevention to swimmers, parents and

¢‰âÒOur lifeguards do a great job but water safety is everyone's
responsibility,¢‰âÂå Lightner said. ¢‰âÒWe all need protect our youth and educate them
about swim safety.¢‰âÂå

San Diego residents and out-of-town beach visitors alike can
donate money to the ¢‰âÒFill the Fin¢‰âÂå campaign at lifeguard stations from Ocean
Beach to Torrey Pines through Friday, Aug. 19. For collection site volunteer or
business sponsorship opportunities, contact San Diego Lifesaving Association
President Jeffrey Hatfield at (619) 944-4289 (or online at:

Pledges of $50 or more to provide a child with swim wear and
lessons also can be made by calling the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA directly at
(619) 264-0144.

For a listing of City of San Diego beaches and lifeguard
services, call (619) 221-8899 or visit