MERCED — The issue of water safety for children is close to Flip Hassett's heart.
Hassett's 4-year-old granddaughter Jaylin Shepherd drowned in a hot tub during a family gathering in March.
Shortly after, Hassett and his family started the Swim 4 Jaylin Scholarship Fund.
"The community has been amazing," Hassett said. "They responded, and with the money we've given to the city, it'll make swim lessons available for kids. Every child should learn how to swim. I believe that with every fiber of my being."
With the help of donations totaling $9,000, combined with the Swim 4 Jaylin Scholarship Fund and the First 5 of Merced County, the city of Merced is offering water safety and swim lessons for $10 at McNamara Pool and the Merced High pool.
The price is $25 cheaper than the lessons offered by the city in 2008.
"I couldn't be more proud to have Jaylin's name attached to something like this, where we're doing something for kids," Hassett said. "The issue is so important. I've been in this community since 1969. I grew up playing water polo and swimming. I'm very well aware of the life skills benefit of knowing how to swim with all our lakes, rivers, streams and other waterways.
"We need to do a better job of teaching water safety. We lose too many kids to drownings. I found some good friends at the (Merced Irrigation District) and First 5 that absolutely believe this should be done."
One set of lessons will be offered from July 8 through July 18 and a second set of lessons will be offered from July 22 through Aug. 1.
Morning lessons will be taught at McNamara Pool from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Lessons at Merced High will be from 4 to 7 p.m.
Classes offered are: Parent and Me for ages 6 months to 3 years; Tiny Tots 1 for ages 3 to 5; Tiny Tots 2 for ages 4 to 6; Beginner Preps for ages 7 to 10; and Stroke Technique for ages 8 to 12.
The lessons will be taught by members of the Merced Skimmers swimming organization.
"At this price point, we expect the spots to fill up quickly," said Mike Conway, assistant to the city manager. "We got a lot of calls and inquiries last week when word got out about the lessons. Now that it's official, we expect a lot of people to sign up quickly."
Parents can sign up their children for swim lessons at the Parks and Recreation Office on the first floor of the Merced Civic Center or over the phone by calling (209) 385-6855. Online sign-ups are available at https://recreationonline. cityofmerced.org.