Legacy fund helps almost 6,000 children get free Swim Safe lessons this summer

A legacy fund set up in memory of a man who drowned in 2015 has allowed almost 6,000 children to learn free water safety skills, as part of the Swim Safe programme offered by RNLI and Swim England

Andrew McGeown, 32, sadly drowned in 2015 after entering the water to save his dog while walking at Scarborough’s South Bay.

His family were determined to turn their loss into something positive for the town and set up the Andrew McGeown Legacy Fund. The fund has so far given 5,742 children the opportunity to learn vital water safety skills as part of the Swim Safe programme offered by The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Swim England.

Swim Safe: free lifesaving sessions

The lifesaving charity predicts that up to 35 million people in the UK and Ireland are planning to visit the coast this summer. Which is one of the reasons the RNLI and Swim England are keen to sign up as many 7 to 14-year-olds as possible to their free Swim Safe sessions, so they can teach more children how to stay safe in and around open water. 

Since 2013, the Swim Safe programme has delivered free lifesaving sessions to more than 148,000 children across the UK. Each summer, trained instructors run the fun 45-minute sessions at outdoor water locations including beaches and water sports centres. Wetsuits are provided, and each participant gets a Swim Safe swimming hat and swimming badge after taking part. The training includes what to do if they, or someone else, gets into difficulty – including how to float to live.

Float to Live

“Last year, RNLI lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crews were busy, aiding more than 50,000 people and saving 408 lives,” Sam Johnson of the RNLI’s Water Safety team said. “By educating children about water safety from a young age, together we can help reduce the number of incidents around our coasts and at inland locations.”

“That’s why we are encouraging parents of children between the ages of 7 and 14 to sign them up to the free Swim Safe sessions to help build their confidence in and around the water, while learning vital skills which could save their lives such as how to float.”

Floating is a simple technique that is proven to save lives. You lie back like a starfish, using your arms and legs to stay afloat. It allows you to control your breathing, so you can call for help or swim to safety. You can watch a video about how to teach your child to float here.

The RNLI’s key water safety advice for 7-14 year-olds is:

  • Stop and think. Always swim in a safe place.
  • Stay together. Always swim with an adult, younger children should always be within arms reach. 
  • Float. If you find yourself in trouble in the water, float on your back like a starfish.
  • Call 999 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard.

An important legacy

“Fundraising in my brother’s memory has given my family a positive focus after Andrew’s death,” said Andrew McGeown’s sister, Donna Loveland, who set up the fund.

“The Swim Safe programme has been very successful. It’s a pleasure to be able to deliver such a valuable programme, and hopefully we will save many lives through the educational sessions.”

“Andrew will always be remembered and loved thanks to the great legacy created with RNLI and Swim England and everyone who has supported us.”

Find out more and book your child’s free water safety lessons at Swim Safe. Children must be able to swim 25m unaided to be eligible for a session. You can read more about RNLI’s summer safety campaign. Sign up to our weekly newsletter for more news, features and more.

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Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.