Swimming saves lives. That’s why Arden Kremer’s been teaching swim lessons for 20 years, 300 kids each summer, and why she’s adamant that Sonoma needs a community swimming pool.
Kremer wants every child in the Valley of the Moon to be able to dive safely into the deep end, and she won’t stop swimming toward that goal until a community pool is built. With a new swim center now sparkling on the horizon at the former site of Paul’s Resort on Verano Avenue, she’s helping raise the funding necessary for it to open by summer 2016.
Escrow on the $2 million land purchase closes at the end of July, with $1.5 million raised and $500,000 left to go. “It’s going to enhance our Valley so much, I know people are going to step forward,” she said.
In Kremer’s dual roles as program director of Swim America, the learn-to-swim-program she oversees at the Hanna Boys Center pool, and as a director on the board of Sonoma Splash, the nonprofit working towards a community pool for Sonoma, she is part of the swim scene past, present and future.
She started teaching lessons in 1994, when her sons, Sam and Max Coturri, were on the Valley of the Moon Aquatics swim team and their coach asked her to be a swim instructor. “By the seat of my pants I learned to teach kids to swim,” she said, and she’s never stopped. About 10 years ago, she became certified with Swim America, a nonprofit that teaches the same, 10-station program nationwide.
Kremer is on the pool deck weekday mornings and again for two hours in the afternoon, as her 18 coaches, many of whom learned to swim in her program, help children in the water. Starting with blowing bubbles all the way up to completing a medley of 300 yards freestyle, 100 yards backstroke and 100 yards individual choice, every summer sees a new group of accomplished swimmers head out with award certificates in hand.
Last Wednesday, Kremer helped 7-year-old Sunny Calder put her swim cap on and get her new, green Speedo goggles adjusted just right. Sunny is in the sixth station, learning freestyle, and says swimming is her favorite sport. “I like it better than soccer,” she said, “And the teachers are really nice.”
Seeing the kids so joyful about their time in the pool motivates Kremer, but her major motivation is knowing swimming ability saves lives. She points out that drowning is the second most common cause of death for children, following automobile accidents.
“The biggest challenge is a 14-year-old boy who comes in and says he doesn’t know how to swim and asks if we’ll teach him. By the end of the summer he is swimming 25 yards. It may not be beautiful, but he could save himself in the water,” she said.
Kremer is also driven to teach swimming to the underserved, especially in the Latino community. She has diligently worked to secure grants and other funding, providing scholarships to many students. She says once the community pool is built, this will continue to be a primary focus.
She greatly appreciates that the administration at Hanna shares their pool, yet knows they would like to have it more available to their own residents. As she set her sights on a new community pool, she knows that many kids may not have learned to swim if it were not for Hanna.
Kremer has always been a swimmer and remembers well her first swim teacher, whose name was Sandy and had her dive for pennies on the pool steps. She grew up not far from the Jersey Shore and spent summers swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. She swam competitively when she was a girl, but gave it up as a teenager. “I always loved it, but I never medaled,” she remembered, “I was always too little.”
She moved to Sonoma County as a young woman after having studied art in college, and met her husband, Phil Coturri, when she took a seasonal job picking grapes. When their two sons were young, “I was determined that they would be good swimmers,” she said. And she succeeded. Sam Coturri is also on the board of Sonoma Splash. “To take a program like this,” he said about his Mom’s Swim America, “and make it year round would be amazing,” he said.
As Kremer watches lessons going on, she says she loves the sound of the kids voices over the splashing of the pool water. “It’s very empowering to learn to swim,” she said. “It’s great to see kids triumph over their fears. They’re afraid to put their face in the water and the next thing you know they can do ten bobs.”
Arden said she has been working towards Sonoma having a community pool for about 15 years, and Sonoma Splash is the third committee she’s served on trying to reach that goal. “The stumbling block was always finding a site. Now that we have a site the future is really bright.”
Sonoma Splash hopes to build two pools, a competition pool and a warmer, therapy pool for aerobics and other classes. As the location is six acres, there are also many other possibilities, including studio space for dance classes and yoga, a fitness center and a climbing wall. It is estimated the project will cost $10 million to $12 million.
“It will be a community pool that everyone will be allowed to use everyday. Seniors will be a big part of it,” she said. “I see the whole community wanting to contribute. Once the ball gets rolling, it’s going to happen. People are going to want to jump on board and be part of it.”
For more information, or to make a donation towards the community pool, visit sonomasplash.org.