May 31, 2022
“Simon says put your head under water and blow bubbles!”
U.S. Olympian Nathan Adrian’s voice boomed at a Richmond, California natatorium, where a group of young beginners eagerly followed his directions and gained confidence in their newfound water skills.
Adrian was joined by fellow Olympians Elizabeth Beisel and Cullen Jones on the final stop of this year’s Make a Splash Tour presented by Phillips 66, the first in-person tour since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tour stopped earlier at Borger, Texas, and Philadelphia.
Drowning claims the lives of approximately 3,500 people per year, with nearly 25% being children under the age of 14. The problem is particularly acute in ethnically diverse communities, where the drowning rate is almost three times the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Beisel said research shows that swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning for children by 88%. Claudia Kreisle, Manager of Social Impact for Phillips 66, said the tour aligns with the company’s focus on safety.
“We know that learning to swim is generational,” Kreisle said. “By teaching these kids how to swim, one day they will teach their kids. I love watching the growing confidence and excitement on these kids’ faces when they’re in the water.”
Jones’ passion for serving as a tour ambassador stems from a near-drowning when he was 5 years old. His mother put him in swimming lessons shortly after the incident, paving the way for him to become the first African American world-record holder in swimming and win four Olympic medals.
“I’m just happy to be in person again and feeling what it feels like to make people safer in the water,” Jones said.