EIGHT weeks ago, Orange youngster Joseph Stewart feared and hated the sight of water.
Now thanks to the helpful advice of two superstar swimmers and a special swimming program called Swim Kids, he can’t get enough.
Joseph was one of the less fortunate children in Australia selected to take part in Swim Kids Operation 10,000, which aims to help teach kids how to swim and all about water safety.
The program is sponsored by Uncle Tobys and ambassador, Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Cate Campbell, has helped teach Joseph basic water fundamentals.
Yesterday at Lake Canobolas, Ms Campbell marvelled at Joseph’s improvement.
“When Joseph first got near the water he was timid, almost afraid and didn’t want to go anywhere near it,” she told the Central Western Daily.
“Now he loves it. He gets great enjoyment from water, his self-confidence has skyrocketed and he’s got a skill for life that every child should have the opportunity to have.”
Ms Campbell believes that Swim Kids Operation 10,000, which aims to provide 10,000 swimming lessons to less fortunate children each year, is crucial to saving and improving lives.
“Swimming has been a very important part of my life and should be part of every child’s life,” she said.
“This program is wonderful. It allows us to help kids that might not get the opportunity to learn to swim.
“Each year there are far too many deaths in water in Australia and this program also helps combat that.”
Joseph’s father Tony believes this opportunity has changed his son’s life forever.
“Just absolutely wonderful, the improvement in Joseph has been incredible,” he said.
“Every time your child hits the water you worry sick that they’ll be OK. Now knowing that he has the ability to swim and has been taught by professional swimmers gives you a lot more confidence.”
Another special guest at Lake Canobolas yesterday to monitor young Joseph’s progress was Paralympian world record swimmer Matt Cowdrey.
He was full of praise for the program, and also a huge fan of young Joseph.
“I’ve been well informed on Joseph’s progress and the confidence he’s gained has been impressive,” he said.