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story.lead_photo.caption Oakley Ward gets help learning to swim from volunteers Layton Lammers and Sophia Zaeringer at the Texarkana Country Club Monday afternoon.

Kids with disabilities started learning to swim Monday at the Texarkana Country Club with help from the iCan Swim program. The event is being sponsored by the Texarkana Down Syndrome Society and Runnin' WJ Ranch.

About 25 kids ages 3 and up will receive lessons through the week-long program.

"They're taught safety for individuals with disabilities as well as actual swimming skills," said Melissa Massey, president of the Texarkana Down Syndrome Society.

The first day of the program helps get children accustomed to being in the water.

"It's going good. We've learned about water safety. We had a few that were fearful at first but by the end of class, they were engaging with volunteers. By the end of the week we should have lots of progress," said Brittany Rogers, program director for the Runnin' WJ Ranch.

iCan Swim is a program offered by the iCan Shine organization.

"When we come in here a big part of what we do is teach about water safety," said Gabey Davis, iCan Swim instructor. "We're seeing that a lot of children with disabilities have a tendency to wander off and often they end up in either a pool, lake, creek or some type of water. We teach kids basic swimming safety so if they get in a pool and get in trouble they know to swim to the side where they're safe."

"We work on basic swim skills including floating and breath control. All of that is with increasing independence. We want them to learn to swim without floaties," Davis said.

Ivy Satterwhite, iCan Swim instructor, is also helping at the camp.

Both Davis and Satterwhite are teachers.

"Being teachers allows us to be able to travel around the country and do this in the summer. We both teach exceptional children with disabilities," Satterwhite said.

The benefits of learning to swim include better self-esteem and increased confidence, positive changes in family dynamics, being included in swimming activities, improved physical fitness and increased safety around water, according to the iCan Swim website.

"Learning to swim is the main goal with this program," said Sam Clem, Runnin' WJ Ranch executive director. "We also want to give them the opportunity to do things other kids do. It's to give them the self -confidence to do what everybody else does."

The iCan Swim program is currently full but event organizers plan to bring other similar programs to the area in the future.

It cost about $6,000 to bring the program to Texarkana and Runnin' WJ and the Texarkana Down Syndrome Society split the cost.

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