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Sanibel Rec to bring out aloha spirit, highlight swim program with luau

By Staff | Jun 4, 2009

Editor’s Note: Due to a technical error, the cover photo for the print edition is incorrect. The photo pictured online is correct. We apologize for the error.


This one word is the backbone of Hawaiian life. It means family.

For those looking to share some time with their ohana in a Hawaiian setting without leaving the island can check out the Sanibel Rec Center this Friday night.

The Sanibel Rec Center is hoping to bring families together and highlight their swimming program tonight at Family Luau Night. This year is the first time Luau Night will be focusing on families. Last year the event concentrated on middle school aged children, said Andrea Miller, the Rec Center Aquatic Manager.

All Sanibel residents and visitors of all ages – particularly families – are invited to a luau at the Sanibel Recreation Center on Friday, June 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The luau celebrates the end of the school year and is geared toward raising additional funds for the Recreation Scholarship Assistance Program, a program that helps needy children who families might not be able to afford sending them to the Rec Center.

Special events planned for the evening include luau games, music and special food and drinks. Middle School students will have their own party during the festivities.

There will be an Hawaiian fashion event, dance challenges “Hula Hoop Hula,” bead workshop and tropical themed foods and pizza, according to Dave DeFonzo, Recreation Program Coordinator.

Parents can enjoy swimming and playing fun games with their younger children. Everyone in the community is encouraged to come. Admission is $10 for adults and children 12 and over who are members, and $12 for non-recreation center members; children 4 to11 are $5 or $7 for non- members. Please register by June 2 at the Rec Center.

Staff appear to be as excited as they anticipate the families attending Family Luau Night will be. “I think this is going to be a great end of the year blast and a great kick-off to the start of summer,” DeFonzo said.

But aside from the fun and games, tonight’s event will also serve to let area families know about the Rec Center’s variety of swimming programs available.

The Rec Center has several pools to meet the community’s needs, including a six-lane lap pool and a features pool with amenities such as fountains and a volleyball net. A plunge pool attaches to the lap pool. There is also a slide and splash pad – a favorite with tots and adults looking to cool-off after sunning near the pools, Miller said.

The pool area of the Rec Center is a draw to residents of all ages. Some come to nurse sore joints or get rehabilitation after recent surgery, while others just come to get fit. Children come for the sheer joy of splashing about and swimming with their friends during the hot island days of summer. And then, some well-honed athletes use the facilities as a way to train and get a sharper edge on the competition.

“There’s really something for everyone,” Miller said.

The Rec Center features a number of swimming classes including group and private lessons.

From Water Pilates to Deep Water Aerobics, there’s a variety of water-related exercises and activities for fitness. There are two water aerobics classes – shallow-water and deep water. There is also a water-jogging class that allows participants to work out with special mid-section float devices. Master swimming is available for adults who are looking for structured activities as well as those looking to practice on their own for competitions. Right now there are 20 people 18 and up in the group, Miller said.

For pint-sized swimmers the Rec Center has a program called Sanibel Water Attack or SWAT. Participants range from five to 18-years-old.

Summer swim lessons start Saturday, June 13 and run through Aug. 15. The children’s lessons are for ages six months to 15 years. Cost for nine lessons is $40 for members and $50 for non-members. Private swim instruction is available in half hour increments on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Sundays from 12 to 4 p.m. Cost is $20 per half-hour lesson for members and $25 for non-members.

The individual swimming lessons are great for those with a fear of water or for athletes looking to improve their skills or learn new strokes, Miller said. The one-on-one attention makes all the difference for many – especially those apprehensive in water. “You see results a lot better with private lessons,” Miller said.

Aside from the fitness and fun of swimming, teaching water safety is a prime focus at the Rec Center. Living or spending time on an island surrounded by water is a key reason Miller focuses on safety. She points out that besides the obvious expanse of gulf water, canals and homes with pools are spread throughout the islands.

And, with Lee County being the sixth-highest spot for tots to drown in the state, Miller drives home safety among her lifeguards during in-service training as well as in those learning to swim. “I just can’t emphasize enough water safety,” she said. “It’s such huge thing for where we live.”

During swim lesson with young children, Miller explains the importance of never entering water if there are no adults around. She also teaches children how to float and to turn around and grab the wall as soon as entering the pool. “Just get that basic safety down,” she said.

For those who just want to enjoy a day of swimming, the cost is $3.50 a day for residents.

And once you master how to swim, there are no age requirements or special skills needed to maintain the activity.

“I think it’s a great way to be physically active,” Miller said.

The Sanibel Recreation Center is located at 3880 Sanibel-Captiva Road. Daily, weekly semi-annual and annual memberships are available. For more information, call the Sanibel Recreation Center at 472-0345 or visit the web site at www.mysanibel.com.