Virginia Beach parks department collecting new swimsuits for kids

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swimsuit2If you’re heading out this weekend for back-to-school shopping or the sales tax holiday, add a new children’s bathing suit to your list.

You might help a second grader learn to swim.

Throughout August, Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation is holding a swimsuit drive for participants in its Students on the Swim program, known as SOS. Through SOS, second grade students from Virginia Beach City Public Schools learn swimming fundamentals and water safety. The two-week curriculum, made possible through private donations, is open to students from Title I schools, which have high enrollments of low-income children. But some of the children don’t have bathing suits, and in a novel initiative that is like a winter coat drive, the parks department is mounting a collection for new kids’ swimwear.

“This is the first time we’ve done one,” said Julie Braley, a spokesperson for the department. The swimsuit drive was timed to coincide with price markdowns, since bathing suits tend to be discounted at this time of year, she added.

SOS started in 2014 with two schools and about 350 students, according to Teri Dalone, the aquatics coordinator for the parks department, which announced the drive earlier this week. Last year, 10 schools and roughly 1,000 students participated in SOS. This year, about 1,400 students from 14 schools are expected to take part in the instruction, which occurs during the school day, one hour a day for ten days, at Virginia Beach recreation centers.

“The program has taken off,” Dalone said during a phone interview.

With increased participation, though, comes increased need. In the past, the parks department has purchased some swimsuits and reserved them for children who didn’t have one, according to Dalone.

For the remainder of this month, donations can be made at any rec center, according to a release from the department. Swimsuits must be new, with sales tags still on them. For girls, the parks department is looking for sizes 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14, in conservative styles such as one-pieces and two-piece tankinis or board shorts.

For boys, donations should be small, medium or large board shorts or swim trunks.

Financial contributions can be made through the Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation Foundation. More information about the foundation is available here.

“Let’s give a child a swimsuit if they need one,” Dalone said.

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Virginia Beach parks department collecting new swimsuits for kids