Dr. Charles van der Horst Water Safety Initiative

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

Swim For Charlie lessons

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

This fall 2023, Swim for Charlie had 594 students participate, bringing the total number of students served since the program’s inception in spring 2020 to 1579 from 19 schools hosted by 6 pools. For the spring of 2024 the program will be offered to another 650 students in Durham Public Schools and Orange County Schools.

Swim for Charlie hopes to expand to other North Carolina school districts to provide water safety education to more second graders.


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


Durham Parks and Rec

Duke Recreation & Physical Education