If swim instructor Jeanie Donofrio had her way, everyone would be in the pool. “Swim for life” is her mantra, and you won’t find a more enthusiastic champion of the water programs at the Sussex Family YMCA.
When Jeanie was a young, single mother, she was looking for a place to exercise that offered childcare for her daughter, but she didn’t think she could afford to join a gym. A coworker encouraged Jeanie to apply for the YMCA’s Open Doors Financial Assistance program. She was eligible for the program and soon started to take Zumba classes at the Bear YMCA.
“I loved the energy there. They had dance parties and great activities in the Kids Zone. Plus, I met amazing people from all walks of life,” said Jeanie.
In 2014, Jeanie and her family moved to Rehoboth and she began working at the Sussex Family YMCA as a lifeguard. She quickly realized that water safety is of the utmost importance in a beach community and took on a new position as a swim instructor.
In the fall of 2018, her daughter Gianna started swimming for the Sussex Family Y Tsunami Swim Team. “She loves it,” Jeanie said. “Gianna will even come in to swim on her off days. She tried other sports, but this is the first one that really clicked.”
When Gianna isn’t working on her butterfly stroke, she is volunteering to help out in her sister Angie’s preschool swim classes. Jeanie sees how these activities have helped her daughters develop socially as they make new friends and strengthen the bonds they have made at school.
“There really is something for everyone here.” However, Jeanie still thinks that water sports can and should be a part of everyone’s program. “Swimming is for people of all ages… one to one-hundred. You can swim before you can walk, and when your joints fail and you can’t do other activities, you can still get into the water and get a good workout.”
The YMCA of Delaware is committed to saving lives and educating the community about safety around water. Every year, people, young and old, drown in swimming pools, lakes, and oceans. Through the Y’s Water Wise program, more than 10,000 children in Delaware have learned life-saving, water safety skills.