Dr. Charles van der Horst Water Safety Initiative

Providing an opportunity for every child to be safe in and around water

Swim for Charlie is teaching second grade North Carolina students life-saving water safety skills.

Swim for Charlie in partnership with Orange County Schools and Orange County Sportsplex graduated the inaugural class of 194 students from Central, Efland Cheeks and New Hope Elementary schools in the spring of 2020. The plan is to expand the program to include all 7 Orange County elementary schools as soon as students are back in the schools, and it is deemed safe to resume field trips with students in close proximity to instructors.

Swim for Charlie is excited to announce a new partnership with Durham Public Schools and North Carolina Central University to bring high quality water safety instruction to students in Durham County.


In his actions as a social justice activist, caring clinician, medical researcher, Public Health crusader, and philanthropist, Charlie was involved in many activities benefiting vulnerable populations.
In keeping with Charlie’s values, his love for swimming, and interest with youth, Charlie’s fellow swimmers and friends, inspired by his actions, have formed a nonprofit charitable organization in his name to make children safer in and around the water.

Learn more about Charlie

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children

No child is ever water safe. The goal of swim lessons is to make children SAFER in, on, and around water.

  • 10 people drown each day in the United States
  • 80-100 near drownings occur daily in the United States
  • 79% of children in households with incomes less than $50,000 have little-to-no swimming ability
  • 64% of African-American, 45% of Hispanic/Latino, and 40% of Caucasian children have little to no swimming ability.
  • 88% of childhood drownings can be prevented with formal swimming lessons