NewsPinellas County


St. Pete Firefighters and lifeguards team up to fundraise for free swim lessons

98 children drowned in Fla. in 2021; a state record
Posted at 3:30 PM, Feb 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 17:38:21-05

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — More children drowned in Florida in 2021 than any other time in the state’s history. Two St. Petersburg groups are teaming up to make a difference and ensure more kids have access to life-saving swim lessons.

Saturday, February 5, St. Petersburg firefighters and St. Petersburg Aquatics Department lifeguards will come together to host a car wash to raise money in order to provide swim lessons free of charge to children from low-income families.

The fundraiser will run from 9 a.m. to noon at the Northwest Pool parking lot at 2331 60th St. North in St. Pete.

The fire and swim leaders will be accepting donations of all amounts and 100% of the money will go towards swim lessons.

This will be the third-year lifeguards and firefighters are teaming up to raise money for swim lessons. Since 2020, they’ve raised over $2,600 providing more than 200 kids with swim lessons.


It comes as Florida deals with a tragic number of children drowning. 98 kids drowned statewide in 2021. That’s the most in a single year in the state. 1 in 4 of those drownings was right here in Tampa Bay.

“Unfortunately, it happens really, really quickly and it’s silent. It’s not like you see in the movies, they don’t scream and thrash or move their arms around. If a child falls into the water and has no swimming skills, they don’t come up for air,” said Anita Westmoreland, the Supervisor of St. Pete’s Aquatic Division.

Westmoreland has made it her mission to save as many lives as possible through swim lessons. “It’s a constant battle that we are always fighting. Living in Florida, we have water everywhere. Pools, ponds, lakes, beach fronts so it’s a really sad occurrence and a tragedy that affects everyone around you,” she elaborated.

“It raises concern for everybody- all parents, everybody around,” Lt. Garth Swingle of the St. Petersburg Fire Rescue added.

Westmoreland and Swingle want to ensure every child has access to lessons that could save their lives.

St. Pete is working to make swim lessons more affordable for families of all income levels as well. Eight lessons (40 mins each) now cost just $39 total and less than $14 total for families that receive federal assistance.

“Learning to swim in the state of Florida is top priority. In my perspective, as a water safety person, swimming lessons are your first line of defense,” Westmoreland elaborated.

Attending Saturday’s car wash isn’t the only way to help provide swim lessons to children, you can also donate online at: