The pools are open, but a lot of kids aren’t swimming.
The Spokane Parks Foundation’s Make A Splash in a Kid’s Life campaign gave out 210 pool passes in 45 minutes on June 8. More than 1,300 children remain on the waiting list for a pass.
The free season passes were distributed by the Salvation Army, one of Make A Splash’s many community partner organizations. Staff at the Salvation Army said parents began lining up at 6 a.m. for passes to be given out at 10 a.m.
“I couldn’t believe the line of people that morning,” said Jennifer Hussey, Spokane Parks Foundation board of trustees member and the chairwoman of the Make A Splash campaign. “I wake up in the morning dreading to have to tell some of the kids ‘no.’ I don’t want to do that.”
Hussey, a longtime West Central community advocate, said she has many fond memories of swimming in the pools as a child and she wants today’s children to have the same experience.
“I just remember how good it felt to dive in there and feel the water on my face,” Hussey said.
There are 1,378 children on the waiting list for a free pool pass. In order to get them in the pool this summer, Make A Splash needs to raise another $27,560.
Access to city swimming pools was free for children until 2009. That’s when the Spokane Parks Board decided to charge children ages 4 to 17 $1.
For many kids, even $1 was too much, so in 2010 the Spokane Parks Foundation and Spokane Valley Partners began a program to raise money toward free swim passes to help low-income children get into city and county pools.
Today, Make A Splash also collects swimwear and sponsors swimming lessons. Swimmers must wear a swimsuit to go swimming in a public pool.
Last week, Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho Junior Troop 3664 presented 37 new swimsuits to Make A Splash – many more suits are needed.
Last year, Make A Splash raised $37,813.50, purchased 3,491 pool passes and distributed more than 2,000 swimsuits.
The city of Spokane Valley’s pools also charge $1 per swimmer older than 5. Children 5 and younger swim for free with a paying adult, and the weekend family discount allows one child age 12 or younger a free swim when accompanied by a paying adult.
Spokane County Parks and Recreation Department operates the Northside and Southside Family Aquatics centers. There, children 2 years and younger swim for free, while children 3 to 5 years old are charged $2 and anyone 6 or older is charged $4. Seniors 60 or older pay $3.
Funds and swimsuits collected by Make A Splash are distributed across Spokane County, said Heather Beebe-Stevens, executive director of the Spokane Parks Foundation.
Hussey said she’s hopeful Spokane will come through for the kids.
“I just want to get all the kids in the pool,” Hussey said. “If everyone who can gave just one dollar then we’d easily have $100,000 – I think we will make it.”