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Deep Connection Behind Swimming Lessons

April 16, 2014, 10:19 PM by Brady Mallory

Deep Connection Behind Swimming Lessons

For most children, swimming lessons are a great time to make a big splash.

"I like floating on my stomach and floating on my back," Kelly Sandoval Chillel said.

Just a few a days in, and seven-year-old Kelly Sandoval Chilel is already diving into what she has learned at the Jami Cummings Learn to Swim Program.  It is a resource, offered through the Worthington Area YMCA, that gives free lessons to all of the second graders in Nobles County.

"They're learning a lifelong skill that they can use," Jami Cummings said.

That is exactly why Cummings and her husband created her namesake program three years ago.  It all started when Cummings was on her lunch break from work.  As she was driving near Lake Okabena, she noticed something that turned her quiet afternoon upside down.

"I've never really been a firm believer in being in the right place at the right time.  Until August 17th," Cummings said.

On that fateful day, she saw a woman on the side of the road, desperately trying to flag someone down for help. 

"She was pointing out into the water, and that's when I saw somebody floating face down," Cummings said.

With no time to even think about jumping in, Cummings got out of her car, and ran into the water. 

"I knew I couldn't turn around," Cummings said.

It is a good thing she kept going, because she saved a little girl and her mother from drowning that day.  That little girl is Kelly.

"It was scary," Kelly said.  "I had to go to the hospital so they could check me and my mom."

Brady: Now how are you doing?
Kelly: Good.

You would not even know this is her first time back in the water since she almost drowned.

"I've been waiting for this day and she's doing very well.  Aren't you?" Cummings asked Kelly, who was sitting beside her.  "Yes, very well.  It's very rewarding having her go through the program."

Cummings, herself, saved two people from drowning.  The Jami Cummings Learn to Swim Program has taught 800 second graders in Nobles County how to swim. 

"Somebody needed help.  I was, like I said, fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time that day," Cummings said.

Brady: Do you feel like a hero?
Cummings: No, I don't.

In her modesty, Cummings admits she did not set out to make a splash the day she saved Kelly and her mom from drowning.  Even so, you cannot help but notice the ripple effect she created is even greater.

"I would say thank you for everything," Kelly said, as Cummings kissed the girl on the forehead.

Cummings wants to continue the program, and hopes it grows.  She said she and her husband will continue to raise money to do so.  Cummings has even been recognized with a National Kiwanis Award.

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