Special Olympics Athletes Help Open Lincoln Heights Summer Pool Program

June 11, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

The calendar may still say it’s spring, but at Downey Recreation Center in Lincoln Heights Monday, summer was in full swing with the start of the annual swim season and Operation Splash, a free summer swim program for low-income children and adults available at some City of Los Angeles public pools.

Lincoln Heights — a neighborhood on the city’s eastside — is one of several local hosts sites for next month’s 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles and on Monday some athletes competing in the Special Olympics were on hand to kickoff the free summer program.

Among them was Joshua Fontelera, a twenty-three-year-old athlete with autism who for the last 12 years has been a regular at city pools, taking full advantage of the city’s free swim programs. This summer he will be an alternate at the Special Olympics Games.

Children get ready to jump in the pool during the kick off event in Lincoln Heights. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Children get ready to jump in the pool during the kick off event in Lincoln Heights. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“I feel really good [being here] because I like to swim,” Fontelera told EGP as his mother proudly showed the gold medals he has won in past competitions. On Monday, he had the added job of leading the Pledge of Allegiance at the event.

Operation Splash —which runs from June to August — is a Kaiser Permanente program run in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and LA84 Foundation, a legacy of the 1984 Olympic Games.

“Operation Splash gives money to the pools so we can come here,” said Fontelera, adding that being in the pool is the “best therapy.”

Kaiser has given the L.A. Dept. of Recreation and Parks Aquatics Division a $240,000 grant to promote physical activity; another $85,000 was awarded by LA84 to help cover program costs at 34 public pools across the city.

“Last week we opened seven pools and on June 13, all 34 pools will be open,” recreation and parks General Manager Michael Shull said.

Lea este artículo en Español: Atletas de las Olimpiadas Especiales Inauguran Programa de Natación

The grants will pay for free swim lessons for 6,000 low-income children and adults, 780 Junior Lifeguard Training scholarships for youth ages 10-17 and for “Rethink Your Drink Campaign” ads to increase awareness about the link between sugary beverages and obesity.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4,000 people die from drowning each year: It is one of the leading unintentional but preventable causes of deaths in the U.S.

About 60% of African American children and 70% of Latino children don’t know how to swim, according to the USA Swimming Foundation.

Many people go to local pools and beaches to cool off during the summer, so it’s important to ensure that everyone is safe and learns to swim, said Gabriela Tovar, manager of grants and programs for LA84.

“With programs like ours, we hope to make changes to these statistics,” Tovar said, explaining LA84 has been funding city of L.A. programs “to provide swim lessons as well as introduce youth to swim team, dive, synchronized swimming and water polo” for 30 years.

Mothers like Fontini Revivo say the free programs are extremely important for all children, bit especially those with disabilities.

Not everyone can afford to have a pool at home, nor do they have the skills needed to teach children with disabilities, she said.

Revivo’s 14-year-old daughter Ariel will compete this summer at the Special Olympics in the free-style swimming category. “It is fabulous to have my daughter in the [free swim] programs because she doesn’t get to participate in a lot of regular activities,” the proud mother told EGP.

“Now the facility will be able to accommodate children with special needs” like her daughter, she said.

Ariel said she loves swimming because it gives her the chance “to be alone” and to at the same time “work with a team.”

On Monday, Councilman Gil Cedillo (CD-1) recalled going to the public pool while growing up on the eastside. “Back in my day, I think it was a quarter or a nickel to go into the pool at Costello” Recreation Center, he said. “For young people, it’s an incredible place to put all their energy, positively and constructively,” he said.

Joshua Fontelera, 23, proudly wears medals he has won in past competitions during Operation Splash kick-off event Monday. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Joshua Fontelera, 23, proudly wears medals he has won in past competitions during Operation Splash kick-off event Monday. (EGP Photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

There are still plenty of scholarships available for free lessons, according to Patricia Delgado,principal recreation supervisor I of the Aquatics Division with the Dept. of Recreation and Parks. “Registration will be conducted on June 14, 2015 at 10 am [at each pool site], sponsorships are available on a first come, first serve basis.”

Operation Splash is part of Kaiser Permamente’s Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) program, focused on reducing obesity in the community by encouraging more safe physical activity and healthy, affordable food.

The Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports competition for people with intellectual disabilities, will be held this year in the Los Angeles area from July 25 to Aug. 2.


East and Northeast L.A. area Operation Splash Public Pools:

Lincoln Heights: Downey Pool, 1775 N. Spring St., (323) 304-0828

Glassell Park Recreation Center: 3707 Verdugo Rd., (323) 226-1670

Highland Park Recreation Center: 6150 Piedmont Ave, (323) 226-1669

Eagle Rock: Yosemite Recreation Center, 1840 Yosemite Dr., (323) 226-1668

Boyle Heights: Pecan Pool, 120 S. Gless St., (323) 526-3042 and Roosevelt High School, 456 S. Matthews St., (213) 485-7391

East Los Angeles: Costello Recreation Center, 3121 E. Olympic Blvd. (323) 526-3073

El Sereno: Richard Alatorre Indoor pool, 4721 Klamath St., (323) 276-3042


For more information visit: www.laparks.org or call (323) 906-7953.


Twitter @jackieguzman


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