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State floats grants to keep lifeguards employed throughout Colorado

Pools across Colorado struggle to open due to lifeguard shortage
Pools across Colorado struggle to open due to lifeguard shortage 04:00

The State of Colorado has distributed more than $200,000 to towns, cities and organizations that operate swimming pools this summer. 

Applicants from across the state received anywhere from $1,000 to more than $10,000 to help keep their swimming pools staffed in 2023. 

Nearly 50 different grants were distributed from the mountains to the front range and even into northern Colorado. The town of Johnstown was among the top recipients, receiving nearly $11,000 in a grant to help staff lifeguards at the YMCA in town. 

"Drowning is the number one cause of death for children between two and six. We want to make sure we are keeping everybody in our pools safe at all times," said Marina Runco, lifeguard and aquatics manager at the YMCA in Johnstown. 

The YMCA received four of the grants the state distributed, some of the money will go to swimming pools they are contracted to staff in local communities and HOAs. 

The grants will help those entities that operate pools open on time and stay staffed for normal business hours. 

"It is a huge shortage of lifeguards up and down the front range," said Jen Spettel, vice president of branch operations for the Johnstown YMCA. "It is a great opportunity to get those additional funds to offset those costs we have to train all of these lifeguards."

The Johnstown YMCA employs more than 50 lifeguards at its location, all of whom also double as trained medics for any other type of injury that may be experienced in the town's recreation center. 

"(The grant) will help us train and recertify lifeguards and incoming lifeguards, and it will also help us train lifeguard instructors. That is a big piece of this, is to get more staff trained to teach more guards," Spettel said. 

While hiring people to work as lifeguards may be more simplistic in large cities and metro areas, the grant will help those in Johnstown find and invest in its lifeguards. 

"For smaller communities there are less people up here. Attracting that entry level lifeguard is more challenging, we need more resources," Spettel said. 

Runco says she loves working as a lifeguard. 

"Being a lifeguard is super fun," Runco told CBS News Colorado's reporter Dillon Thomas. "I love being a part of this community."

Runco encouraged more people to consider becoming a lifeguard. 

"Not only is it an entry pathway into the medical field, it is also lifelong swimming skill that you can carry with you for a very long time," Runco said. 

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