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Phelps expands swimming education initiative

Popular 'im' program will be offered in 16 Boys and Girls Clubs across 14 states this summer

By Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun

10:19 AM EDT, June 24, 2011

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Ever since he started his foundation, Michael Phelps has been trying to educate Baltimore kids on water safety and attempting to save lives with swimming lessons. Now he's expanding that mission beyond the Baltimore area, and taking it nationwide.

The Michael Phelps foundation announced Thursday that it is expanding its signature "im" program through the Boys and Girls Club of America, making it available in 16 clubs across 14 states this summer. The program — which is named in recognition of one of Phelps' signature events, the individual medley — aims to teach children the basics about water safety, and encourage kids to use swimming as part of a healthy, active lifestyle.

The program has already been put in place at swim clubs in Maryland, Florida, Texas, California, Ohio and Maine, and will be expanding to Boys and Girls Clubs in New York, Delaware, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska by the end of the summer.

"It's not only about teaching kids how to swim, it's teaching them everyday things that you can use throughout your life," Phelps said in an appearance on the Today Show to promote the program's expansion. "It's always the most fun for me to be with kids and see a real, true smile and excitement on a kid's face."

In addition to developing the "im" program, the Michael Phelps Foundation provides each Boys and Girls club with financial support to assist with the cost of the program. That includes "funding for staffing, training, supplies and equipment, pool access and maintenance, and administrative expenses," according to a release sent out by the foundation.

The "im" program consists of five areas of focus: safety, health and wellness, fun, organized swimming and education. Kids who participate can also earn medals and posters as they meet their goals and advance through the program.

Phelps was traveling Thursday and not available for comment. He's training in preparation for the FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China, which take place at the end of July.

kvanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kvanvalkenburg

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