Local news

Coalition to provide swim passes for city, county low-income kids

Invoking an image of kids peering through a fence at other children splashing in a public pool on a hot summer day, a Spokane-area coalition announced a plan on Tuesday to help poor children swim, too.

Last year the Spokane Parks Foundation and Spokane Valley Partners began a program to help low-income children afford to swim in Spokane and Spokane Valley pools.

It might have been because of the rainy weather or trouble getting the word out, but fewer than half of the passes the groups sponsored last year were used, said parks foundation Executive Director Toni Nersesian.

This year, with the help of a venerable nonprofit charitable organization, the Make a Splash project hopes no Spokane County child will be left out of the pool.

The Salvation Army, which has experience matching low-income families with social services, will issue vouchers to qualifying Spokane city and county families. The families will be able to take these vouchers to the area swimming pool of their choice for a season pass.

Spokane Valley Partners will issue vouchers for Spokane Valley families.

Also on Tuesday, Make a Splash announced more than $14,000 in contributions from area businesses and nonprofits. In addition, the Spokane Parks Foundation has as much as $20,000 remaining from donations raised last year, Nersesian said.

In 2010, Make a Splash did not purchase passes for Spokane County pools because of the high cost, Nersesian said. But this year the county has lowered its rates 33 percent.

The daily rate charged by county Parks, Recreation and Golf will be $2 for children ages 3 to 5, and $4 for children 6 and older at the Northside and Southside aquatics centers.

This year the city, which began charging for swimming in 2009, doubled its daily rates to $2 for children ages 4 to 17, and $4 for adults.

More than 34,000 students in Spokane County public schools, or 43 percent, lived at or below the poverty level in 2009, according to the Spokane Parks Foundation.

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