Going out on a swim

If Vahe Termirzayan didn't have a place to swim each summer, the 11-year-old figures he would be stuck inside his home, wasting time on his computer. Instead, Vahe joined four friends and more than two dozen others Sunday for the ninth annual Splish Splash Family Fun Day, held in the Glendale and Hoover High School pools.

The program, sponsored by ABC7 and Glendale's aquatics division, preaches pool safety while providing a relaxing respite under the summer sun.

Many of Sunday's participants have frequented the Glendale High School pool for many years, like Vahe, who continues to swim here for its friendly atmosphere and to get a break from the heat.

“I've been coming for a couple years,” he said, before jumping into the pool. “This keeps me busy. It's nice. It's a nice community.”

Officials who run the program encourage people to have fun — by providing flotation devices, rings and a diving contest — but safety was also part of the focus Sunday.

Before swimmers were allowed to dip into the cool waters on a day when the mercury rose to nearly 90 degrees, pool officials ran through a litany of life-saving procedures and safety tips.

Lifeguards demonstrated CPR, proper breathing techniques and what to do in case of an emergency to a small, fidgety crowd that would grow later in the afternoon.

“You won't believe how many people drown every year,” head supervisor Ryan Halrapetian said. “It's very tough to educate people. I wish more people would come.”

More did, including Elsik Zargaryan, who did not hear the safety presentation but impressed upon her two sons the importance of sunscreen and safe swimming.

Zargaryan and her family have been attending Glendale High's recreation swimming program, including Splish Splash Sunday, for about four years despite the increased price of swimming lessons, which recently climbed from $25 to $30.

“The price does matter, but my boys love it so much here, we cut down on other expenses,” she said. “We never eat out, and we carpool now.”

Officials at the pool Sunday said the crowd — which totaled nearly 30 — was smaller than in years past but were confident that the number of swimmers would increase as the summer progresses.

Still, the city's summer swim program is one of Glendale's most popular recreational activities, said Courtney Maglio, the city's aquatic program coordinator.

Swim lessons and recreation swimming programs are 95% filled this year, and the city has not recorded any drownings in the nine-year history of the annual summer swim program, she said.

Contributing to the popularity of the city's swim program is the safety at Glendale's two public pools, an issue Los Angeles pool officials have been forced to consider recently.

In late June, a band of young men overpowered two armed guards in a South Central Los Angeles pool, forcing the pool manager, a lifeguard and a locker room attendant into the water.

Security was beefed up in the wake of the attack and Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Burke promised $331,000 for increased law enforcement at pools in the area this summer.

“The first few years we had some problems with some young people sitting on the bleachers and pushing people in,” Maglio said. “We used to have the Park Ranger or the police here and they would take care of it. But now, we're at the point where we don't need to do that.

“We want people to cool off, have fun and continue to be safe around water.”

?JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@latimes.com.

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