CRYSTAL LAKE – Specks of mud peppered the legs of 7-year-old Ella Schoof on Friday while she jumped up and down Crystal Lake Main Beach.
Having toweled off once already, it was round two for Schoof and 5-year-old sister, Cailyn, after they participated in a worldwide swim lesson minutes before.
The World's Largest Swimming Lesson is an event aimed at breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest simultaneous swim lesson ever conducted. For the fifth consecutive year, pools, water parks and other such facilities around the world hosted a lesson at 10 a.m. Friday, including for the first time, the Crystal Lake Park District.
Superintendent of Recreation Services Kim Buscemi said the global aspect was especially entertaining for participants, but the lesson was about more than just having fun.
"To promote swim lessons is a very important life lesson," Buscemi said. "At some point in your life, you're going to find yourself by water."
The event's goal, aside from setting a record, was to cast widespread awareness about teaching children to swim since drowning is the second-leading cause of injury-related death in kids between ages 1 and 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Crystal Lake, there were about 150 participants who received a lesson and about 12 lifeguards and instructors to oversee it, said Buscemi, who didn't know yet whether or not the record was broken.
The swimmers were broken into groups based on ability, from level one up to level seven.
Cailyn and Ella Schoof were placed in levels one and two, respectively, where they each learned several age-appropriate lessons.
"In level one, they learned skills like jumping in the water and kicking," said Deborah Devine, the girls' grandmother. "In level two, they went over actual strokes."
While Friday's lesson wasn't too in depth, Devine said the girls likely will take formal swim lessons to ensure water safety throughout the summer.
"We know swimming lessons are really important," she said, between side glances toward the sisters. "They can get in trouble so fast if they don't know what they're doing."