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Lessons go swimmingly

Alec Schallenkamp, 7, is spending his first summer away from home, with grandma. He’s in Russellville for the next few months – far from his home in Washington State. As part of his Southern summer experience, grandmother Dana Chard had a particular activity in mind – swimming lessons, something that’s less common in his hometown.

“There’s no sun. There’s really no water,” Chard said. “I wanted to give him a new experience he’s never had before.”

The first day of lessons at Russellville City Pool, Alec wouldn’t even get wet, much less paddle himself across the pool. But with encouragement from his uncle and coaxing from lifeguard/lesson instructor Cameron DeArman, he’s starting to get more comfortable.

Alec is one of several children taking part in swimming lessons this summer through Parks and Recreation. The department’s second session of swimming lessons wraps up tomorrow, and one session remains, July 11-21. Classes are open to children ages 5-14 and take place Monday through Thursday at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., lasting about 45 minutes per class. Class capacity is 10 children.

“This is her fifth year,” said Pamela Waldrep of her little waterbug, Hannah Waldrep, 8. “They are an awesome group up here that has taught her how to swim. She’s fearless. She can jump in now, and she can swim. When she first started, she couldn’t swim by herself … We’re thankful we were able to get her in here and they could teach her.”

Rosie Bowen is just 3 years old, but grandmother Karen Blaylock said she’s “too comfortable with the water,” – making swimming lessons an immediate priority. “We travel and we’re in hotels a lot, so she’s in water a lot. And we watch her; we’re there with her; but nothing takes the place of knowing how to swim,” Blaylock said.

It’s DeArman’s third summer to work as a lifeguard at Russellville City Pool. He said he gets enjoyment out of helping the children learn. “I just like putting smiles on people’s faces,” DeArman said. Getting the children comfortable with him is the key to being able to get them confident in the water.

Russellville’s eight lifeguards rotate teaching lessons. Cost is $30 for one child, $40 for two children and $60 for three children. Children should wear their swimsuit and bring a towel and sunscreen. For more information, call 256-332-8790.