Swim Instructor teaching a young student how to float in the water.

Eleanor with her swim instructor, Haileigh.

Caitlyn and Pasquale Bartello are not at all worried when Eleanor, their three-year-old is near the water. They credit the Citrus Memorial Foundation YMCA’s FLOAT program for giving them this peace of mind.  

The husband-wife duo are teachers at Lecanto Middle School where Caitlyn saw a flyer for FLOAT last summer and wanted to try the program. They had already started her swim lessons at the YMCA when she was only nine months old and wanted to see what FLOAT could do. Two lessons later last fall, and two this year, they knew they had found the program they needed.

FLOAT teaches children how to roll on their backs, breathe and float to the side of the pool until help arrives. Those precious seconds can save a life. Sessions are “mini” lessons that maximize the short attention span of infants and toddlers while gradually increasing comfort level in the water through personalized instruction by certified FLOAT staff.

“She loves the water and was very comfortable with it but didn’t know how to float. She was also uncomfortable with water in her ears. So, we wanted her to learn a few skills too. FLOAT came along at the right time. She started FLOAT last fall, and we have every confidence and peace of mind that she knows how to float and get to the wall until help arrives,” explains Caitlyn.

Pasquale agrees.

“She did a FLOAT session fully clothed and knows the difference between her clothes being wet and dragging her down. It’s great to see how she’s taught and given specific instructions. You never know when your kids are near water with other family members, or at a party.”

“We appreciate Haileigh, Eleanor’s swim instructor, who explains things to her including asking permission to go near the water. Eleanor loves the water but has that healthy fear too and knows to ask an adult if mom and dad are not with her. She can’t wait for her weekly swim lessons.”

Haileigh Swisher, Aquatics Coordinator and FLOAT Instructor has been with the Citrus Y for two-and-a-half years. She highlights her approach to the classes.

“For every lesson, my priority is to get them doing a back float by themselves or any other skill we’re working on, without them being fearful. It’s also important to me to get the parents or family to trust what I’m doing. FLOAT is my absolute favorite and I love being able to help these kids gain confidence in themselves around the water but also save themselves in an emergency. It’s such an important and amazing program and I’m so happy to be part of it.”

Caitlyn also signed Eleanor for safety around water lessons.

“I love how swim lessons and FLOAT are promoted at the Citrus YMCA. They offer scholarships too making it easy for the community to access these programs.”

“We tell family and friends about FLOAT all the time sending them videos. It’s been amazing to see Eleanor’s confidence grow. She’s not afraid to go out and try something new. I threw her in the water fully clothed and the first thing she said was ‘do that again, Daddy!’” noted Pasquale, who has also been a swim instructor.  

“Citrus YMCA has been fantastic all around even before we started the lessons and became members. Haileigh gives us a report after every lesson including what they worked on and what’s next. It’s very methodical in how they approach the FLOAT program, which we love as teachers. I’ve learned so much from Haileigh. We see more and more people enrolling in the program. We love that the Y has a full Aquatics program and want to keep going with the YMCA.” 

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Published Wednesday, June 26, 2024.