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Couple funds swimming lessons for kids after son’s drowning death

O’FALLON, Ill. – With the unofficial start of summer this weekend, a lot of families will be hitting area pools. An O’Fallon, Illinois couple wants to make sure tragedy doesn't happen after the drowning death of their own son more than a decade ago.

Holly and Christopher Schlacter want to teach people how to swim.

“We started the legacy three years ago in June,” Holly said. “It's two to three classes a year, so doing the quick math, probably about 300.”

That's 300 children who have learned to swim thanks to Schlacters and their local YMCA. The couple serves as board members at the O’Fallon location. For the past three years, they’ve funded swim lessons and share the story of their son, Christopher Schlachter Jr., who drowned in 2007.

“That was the biggest reach for us is we saw this as a place we could help share our stories with the community and impart a legacy for our son,” Christopher said.

This year, the Schlacters have partnered with the YMCA and three grade schools to offer lessons to children in underserved communities.

But the O’Fallon YMCA isn’t the only branch offering swim lessons to those in need. Twenty-four branches in the Gateway Regional YMCA offers two-week lessons, four-week lessons, or even once-a-week lessons for eight weeks.

“Each branch raises money for scholarships so that no one that's experiencing any kind of struggle can't participate,” said Tricia Meinhold, VP Operations for Gateway Regional YMCA. “So we don't turn anybody away for inability to pay.”

The YMCA offers swim lessons to children as young as six months old.

“This time of year, most importantly, when pools are starting to open, we're having fun with pool parties,” Holly said. “Be extra cognizant around the water, put down the phone, have somebody paying attention. Get your kids enrolled in those life-saving water skills.”