TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As kids head to the pool during the summer there’s a program for children in underserved communities who are afraid of swimming.
SeaTREK, an attraction at the Florida Aquarium, allows individuals to breathe underwater using an air helmet.
“Going in there, you fear the unknown so when you get to go down here and you walk and you have this apparatus that gives you 3x the air you actually need, you feel part of this alien world,” explains Tony Rokita the Senior VP of Community Engagement.
The apparatus is especially helpful for non-swimmers. The aquarium partners with various organizations which allows children in underserved areas to access the experience at no cost.
Rokita describes, “One of the young girls said ‘Wow, can I meet you biologist, can I be part of this world?’. Now, we’re going to have her come back and have her do some shadowing with some of our staff.”
Participants undergo a brief safety demonstration prior to using the helmet. Then individuals are lowered into one of the aquarium’s underwater exhibits.
According to Rokita, once kids realize they’re safe in the environment the fear of water fades. He says, “When you look at what makes up a community we’re so much better and stronger when we’re all together in this.”