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True Blue The Arc of the Emerald Coast and British Swim School Form Partnership in Fort Walton Beach b y D e n i s e K . J a m e s
W ater babies everywhere have no doubt heard of British Swim School, where children as young as three months old can learn the basics of swimming. Founded in 1981 by Rita Goldberg and popular all over the United States and Canada, British Swim School has taught more than a generation of kids and adults. Now, in Fort Walton Beach, even more kids who are anxious to earn their sea legs are able to do so, thanks to a unique partnership with the Arc of the Emerald Coast and their state-of-the-art swim facility. As of March 2020, British Swim School will host lessons at the Arc of the Emerald Coast’s Aquatic & Education Center. Lessons will take place each Thursday and Friday and will employ the “unique and highly effective teaching methods” British Swim School is known for. “This is a great partnership for the Aquatic and Education Center,” comments John Roper, CEO of the Arc of the Emerald Coast. “We use the pool regularly for our clients at the Arc, but it’s exciting to see other members of the community dive in and enjoy the pool,” he adds.
being with someone he didn’t know in the water! But within a couple of classes, we could not get him out of the water. He didn’t want to leave. And he talked about lessons literally every day, asking when he would get to go swimming again,” she says. Trinque shares that she herself swims competitively and wanted her grandson to “know what to do in the pool.” Though Liam didn’t have many lessons before his family moved away, Trinque still feels that, “Through the repetition of performing the tasks [the instructors] gave him, he was progressing very fast. “From the first time he walked into the class, I could tell that they are very dedicated at the British Swim School and believe in what they are doing,” she says. “They loved Liam and really cared about him and wanted to help him learn how to swim.” The Aquatic & Education Center is a 7,000 square-foot facility with a 1400 square-foot zero-entry pool. In addition to the spacious swimming pool, the facility boasts a state-of-the-art
Photo courtesy of British Swim School.
What is the Arc of the Emerald Coast? It’s a grassroots organization that focuses on advocating for citizens who have cognitive, intellectual, or developmental difficulties, as well as offering support for their families and loved ones. In addition to Walton County, the Arc provides services in Okaloosa – where it originated— and Santa Rosa Counties. Kimberly Graybill, proprietor of the local British Swim School, says the partnership was completely serendipitous; John Roper saw Graybill and a few other staff members “around town, looking for indoor pools” and invited them to make use of the Aquatic Center. As it turned out, the situation was mutually beneficial. “He invited us to join him in his office and asked us to explain what we do and who we are. That was it,”
Graybill explains. “They wanted the pool to be used more frequently and we needed a pool!” In Graybill’s view, learning to swim and survive in the water is an important life skill - especially in a place like Florida. “The goal is to reach as many students and people as we can and teach them life-saving skills in the water to save them from drowning,” she says. “We want to help the Arc reach people who otherwise might not be reached and use this pool that otherwise might not be used.” Missy Trinque, a local woman whose grandson, Liam, attended classes with the British Swim School, says she and Liam both thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the experience. “I noticed how relaxed he became. When we started lessons, he was petrified of swimming and
kitchen and ample space to use for gatherings of all types, from birthday parties to board meetings. According to the website, the Aquatic & Education Center was generously funded thanks to The Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation and Impact 100, while Cox Communications funded the dietary center. The Arc of the Emerald Coast Aquatic & Education Center is located at 341 Holmes Blvd, Fort Walton Beach FL, 32548. To find out more about British Swim School lessons at the facility, visit www. britishswimschool.com/locations/us/fl/fort-walton-beach or call (850) 220-1619.
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