Summer in North Carolina brings a surge in water activities. As an advocate for water safety, it’s concerning to know that 18.2% of adults in North Carolina can’t swim, putting the state in the 38th position for swimming proficiency.

This isn’t just a statistic — it represents a significant risk every summer. But there’s a straightforward way we can tackle this. Instead of waiting for government-led initiatives, which can be slow and one-size-fits-all, we can empower our local businesses and community groups to lead the charge.

When it comes to water safety, local organizations have a clear advantage. They understand their community’s specific needs, such as where swimming lessons are most needed or which age groups aren’t being reached. This allows them to set up tailored swimming programs quickly and efficiently, right in time for the busy summer season.

Imagine if local businesses, like pools and gyms, teamed up to offer free or discounted swimming lessons. They could open their doors for a few weekends each month, not just to kids but to adults as well, ensuring that everyone gets a chance to learn a potentially life-saving skill.

Another practical step could be for community groups to establish scholarship funds. These funds would help cover the costs of swimming lessons, focusing on those who need it most, to ensure that financial constraints don’t prevent anyone from learning to swim. Local volunteers could also team up with lifeguards to organize informal water-safety workshops, teaching practical safety tips and hands-on learning experiences for staying safe in and around water.

These efforts go beyond just swimming lessons. When local businesses and volunteers step up to lead, they’re not only teaching, they’re also helping to bring people together and strengthen the sense of community and safety.

If you’re a business owner, consider how you could help. If you’re a community leader, think about what you could organize. And if you’re someone who cares about keeping our communities safe, know that you can make a difference. Support these initiatives, help spread the word, or volunteer. Get involved, because everyone has a role to play.

Together, we can change our approach to water safety. This effort is about more than preventing accidents; it’s about taking proactive, collective action to make sure everyone can enjoy the water without risk of drowning. Let’s start now, and let’s work together to make an impact this summer.