Swim with Santa at the Tillsonburg Community Centre

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Julie Dawley had an unusual question for Santa Claus at the recent Celebrate Tillsonburg.

"Santa, can you swim?" Dawley asked the bearded, red-suited man.

Santa paused momentarily and replied, 'yes, why?'

"Because I have a proposition for you that's a little bit different than the normal," said Dawley who explained the idea behind a special Swim With Santa she was planning. "He was really excited."

Swim With Santa is a public swim – open to anyone, including families – on Wednesday, Dec. 23 from 1-3 p.m. From 1-2 p.m. Santa will be in the viewing area where he will be available to have pictures taken with children. Donations of $2 will be gratefully accepted in support of the Children's Aid Society of Oxford County.

"This is a special-price swim," said Dawley. "Admission to the swim is $2 per person."

While Santa is available for photo ops, there will be games organized in the pool.

"We have reindeer relay, we have candy cane scavenger hunt, and we have an ornament puzzle. There's going to be several Christmas-themed games happening in the pool during that hour (1-2 p.m.)."

In the second hour Santa will join the swimmers wearing specially-designed Santa swimwear.

"We're going to test him to see if he can pass the Swim to Survive swim test," Dawley smiled, adding, "It's going to be the kids test."

To pass the test, Santa will need to do a Swim to Survive front roll-in, which simulates an unexpected fall; he will need to tread water for one minute; and swim 50 metres (two lengths of the pool).
"These are the minimum skills needed to survive an unexpected fall into deep water."

That may be useful for Santa considering how many bodies of water he has to cross on Christmas Eve. Should the sled have a mishap...

"These three skills are based on statistical reports on how far people were from safety – typically it was 50 metres. When we move on to the Plus Program, which is geared toward Grade 7 kids, it's the same three skills done with your clothes on, which makes it physically harder. They also do more on how to do a rescue."

The Swim to Survive program was created for Grade 3 kids (8-year-olds).

"We're hoping to run the program some time in the new year," said Dawley.

The program can be completed by non-swimmers wearing lifejackets.

"If you get them in the water and get them used to performing the skills with a lifejacket on, by the end of three lessons we have them completing the skills in a lifejacket."

If you are in the Community Centre pool between now and Dec. 18, you can support The Salvation Army Christmas Program by bringing items to place on or under The Giving Tree, which has been set up on the pool deck.

"Toys, food, mittens – put them under the tree," said Dawley, noting the tree already has a few items under hit.

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