A local swim club working to increase swimming and water safety among Buffalo’s minority populations is continuing to grow, and is now doing it with the help of two foundations.
When the Buffalo City Swim Racers got underway in early 2013, it was with just over a dozen participants in a single pool. Five years later, they’re up above 240 in more than three pools around the city.
Head Coach and Founder Mike Switalski said when he founded the Swim Racers, it was with the intention of it becoming a “cradle to grave effort.”
“Kids can get in at a very early age to learn to swim. Then we’ll offer some competitive swimming experiences to them through high school and into college, hopefully. Then a masters program beyond that, and or lap swimming, to go along with adult learn to swim and adaptive learn to swim.”
The biggest numbers from the club’s population come from the black community, but participation among other minorities has been on the rise, too.
“Some more Asian representation. We have several Muslim families that have joined our organization, too,” said Switalski. “So we’re growing in every respect.”
Part of that growth comes from partnerships. Organizations like Love Alive Fellowship Church and West Side Community Services have brought additional kids to the pool, taking them from no experience in the water, all the way to competitive swimming.
“They’re strong organizations within the City of Buffalo that do offer some kind of youth service programming in the summer months. That’s the best opportunity for us to provide lessons.”
It’s also not the only opportunity. A new Swim Racers pilot program at Erie Community College is getting adults in the pool and learning to swim, too.
Now the club has additional support in its finances, with a $15,458 grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to support current programming. And for the future, the Swim Racers are receiving help with strategic planning through the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.
In the pool, Switalski teaches his swimmers to recognize little victories, from learning to float and swimming laps, to advancing to racing. He recognizes that the club, too, can appreciate little victories that continue to add up to greater success.
“Whether it’s more interest from organizations with their youth programs bringing their kids to us for swim lessons, or it’s a potential funding stream, or a potential facility, or service – it seems like every time we think we’re just about to hit a plateau where we think we might just have to maintain status quo for a little bit, something else comes and approaches us to help us augment the program more,” Switalski said.