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Step Into Swim Announces Partnership with Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation to Increase Swim Lesson Access Across Northeast

  • Oct 24, 2023

October 24, 2023

Media Contacts:
Amy Willer
Associate Director, Marketing and Communications
Pool & Hot Tub Alliance
703-838-0083, ext. 121 |

Meghan Bell
Director of Public Relations
Stew Leonard’s
203-948-7374 |


$200,000 donation with a gift match will provide 40,000 free or low-cost swim lessons to children in need

(Alexandria, Va.) — Step Into Swim, a non-profit initiative of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) dedicated to creating more swimmers through safe swim education, today announced a strategic partnership with Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation. The Foundation committed $200,000 and received a direct match from the PHTA Board of Directors, which will help Step Into Swim gift grants to learn-to-swim providers across the Northeast and fund 40,000 swim lessons for thousands of children while driving down the drowning rate.

Stew Leonard, Jr. and Rowdy Gaines at Stewie the Duck Swim School

Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation was founded in 1990 by Kim and Stew Leonard, Jr., who tragically lost their son, Stew Leonard III (“Stewie”), in a drowning accident when he was just 21 months old. The Foundation focuses on water safety awareness and education initiatives by funding hundreds of lifeguard trainings and more than 10,000 free or low-cost swim lessons for children in need each year. In June 2023, the Foundation opened its first Stewie the Duck Swim School in Norwalk, CT. All net proceeds from the swim school will be used to fund swim lessons for children who may otherwise not have access.

“Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation shares a mission with Step Into Swim: to save lives through swim lessons,” said Olympic Gold Medalist Rowdy Gaines, PHTA Vice President of Partnerships & Development, who leads the Step Into Swim initiative. “Stew and Kim are heroes in the water safety community, and Step Into Swim is so honored to receive their generous donation. We are excited to be able to focus these funds on the Northeast, where there is a tremendous need to increase access to swim lessons.”

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1–4, but receiving swim lessons from a qualified instructor reduces the risk of drowning by 88% for that same age group – underscoring the importance of water safety programs. Through the Foundation’s generous $200,000 donation and ongoing partnership, Step Into Swim is able to make a positive impact in communities across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, where the Stew Leonard’s supermarket chain already performs community outreach, and extend the lifesaving gift of learning to swim in areas important to the Foundation.

“We love Rowdy Gaines and Step Into Swim! Its mission aligns with ours beautifully, which is to save a life, one lesson at a time,” said Kim and Stew Leonard Jr., co-founders of Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation. “We are thrilled to have created a partnership with Step Into Swim and look forward to working with them to prevent drownings.”

Contributions like this from the Foundation are integral to growing Step Into Swim’s mission. Through 2023 so far, Step Into Swim has raised over $750,000, which has provided grants to more than 100 facilities in 33 states and funded swim lessons for 23,000 children. The initiative has gifted more than 300,000 swim lessons since 2012 through YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, and many more. Step Into Swim is funded through contributions and 100 percent of donations go to learn-to-swim programming. To learn more, visit


About the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance and Step Into Swim
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA), a non-profit organization with more than 3,700 members from around the world, was established in 1956 to support, promote, and protect the common interests of the $50B pool, hot tub, and spa industry. PHTA provides education, advocacy, standards development, research, and market growth initiatives to increase our members’ professionalism, knowledge, and profitability. Additionally, PHTA promotes the use of pools by expanding swimming, water safety, and related research and outreach activities aimed at introducing more people to swimming, making swimming environments safer, and keeping pools open to serve communities. For more information, visit

Step Into Swim™ is an initiative of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance committed to safe swim education and drowning prevention. By investing in the next generation of swimmers through learn-to-swim programs, the Step Into Swim initiative instills confidence, empowers long-term participation in water activities, touts the positive benefits of water play, and advocates for safe practices. Since its inception in 2012, Step Into Swim has played a role in reducing drowning fatalities and has gifted swim lessons to more than 300,000 children with support from community organizations, partners, industry advocates, members and more. For more information, visit

About Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation
On January 1, 1989, a 21-month old toddler, Stew Leonard III, lost his life in a drowning accident. This sparked his parents, Kim and Stew Leonard Jr., to pledge that they would do everything in their power to prevent this tragedy from striking other families, since drowning is a leading cause of death in children under five. In 1990, they founded the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation in memory of their son. Its mission is to educate children and families on water safety. Since 1990, the Foundation has raised $6 million to help fund training thousands of lifeguards and providing hundreds of thousands of free or low-cost swim lesson for children in need. For more information, visit


Pool & Hot Tub Alliance Strategic Partners:

  • Biolab
  • Fluidra
  • Hayward
  • Heritage Pool Supply Group
  • Lou
  • Lyon Financial
  • Pentair
  • WatkinsWellness
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