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Donations wanted . . . Waitaki Aquatic Centre manager Matthew Lanyon (left) and Sport Waitaki co-ordinator Mitch McRae are calling for donations of togs, goggles and swim caps to support participation in the Water Skills for Life programme. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

Sport Waitaki has launched a campaign to support children’s participation in the Water Skills for Life (WSFL) programme.

They are calling for donations of quality togs, goggles and swim caps to pass on to children who need these items to be able to join in.

Sport Waitaki co-ordinator Mitch McRae said having correct-fitting gear had been identified as one of the biggest barriers for children to participate in swimming lessons.

“Any donations made by members of the community will be gratefully received,” Mr McRae said.

“I’ve got a surplus of caps and goggles that I’ll hunt out .. and I’m sure people will have stuff sitting in the bottom of a drawer not being used.”

The donation box would also be topped up with outstanding lost property from the Waitaki Aquatic Centre.

Mr McRae said donated gear would be used when a child left theirs at home, or if there were financial barriers for them getting their own.

“Goggles are huge – research shows if kids have goggles, and are used to swimming with goggles, it’s just one less distraction .. it helps the concentration during lessons,” Waitaki Aquatic Centre manager Matthew Lanyon said.

Compared with other regions across New Zealand, North Otago’s swimming participation statistics were “slightly above average”, Mr Lanyon said.

Mr McRae said learning to swim was a core life skill and an essential part of growing up in New Zealand, especially in Waitaki, surrounded by beaches, lakes and rivers.

It was important children learned to swim – not necessarily competitively, but to learn the basics, have confidence and know how to be safe in the water, he said.

All donations will be accepted by the Waitaki Aquatic Centre, during their opening hours, throughout the first term of the school year. These will be dry-cleaned and made available to pupils aged 5 to 13, through local schools participating in the WSFL programme.

The WSFL programme was developed for children in years 1 to 8 to learn water safety. Based on 27 core skills, it establishes broad fundamental competencies for lifelong water safety.

More information is available at watersafety.org.nz.