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THURSDAY, JULY 26, 2007
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Lifeguard Sean Tortorano helps Leah Peuitt learn to float during the McKinnon Swim Clinic, hosted by former NFL linebacker Ronald McKinnon at Carrie Matthews Recreation Center in Decatur. McKinnon and his wife, Shana, are giving children free swimming lessons. McKinnon said he normally teaches football camp during the summer but he wanted to do something different this year.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Lifeguard Sean Tortorano helps Leah Peuitt learn to float during the McKinnon Swim Clinic, hosted by former NFL linebacker Ronald McKinnon at Carrie Matthews Recreation Center in Decatur. McKinnon and his wife, Shana, are giving children free swimming lessons. McKinnon said he normally teaches football camp during the summer but he wanted to do something different this year.

Ronald McKinnon hopes free lessons will save lives
Ex-linebacker teaches swimming

By Emily Peck
epeck@decaturdaily.com 340-2440

Ronald McKinnon watches a pile of sweaty arms and legs from the sidelines.

The former NFL linebacker isn't at the Superdome. He's sitting on a bench at Carrie Matthews Recreation Center swimming pool in Decatur.

This week, he and his wife, Shana, are giving children free swimming lessons. McKinnon said he normally teaches football camp during the summer, but he wanted to do something different this year.

"Everybody needs to know how to swim," McKinnon said. "If we save one life by teaching these kids, then that's a big difference."

Nearly 100 children registered for this week's camp. Younger participants learn basics like floating and going underwater, while older children concentrate on stroke development and distance swimming.

Jalen Hampton, 11, said "it's really cool" to take swimming lessons with McKinnon.

"I'm having a lot of fun," Jalen said while wiping the water from his chlorine-soaked eyes. "I really want to learn how to swim better."

Jalen swims often at Carrie Matthews with his friend Geneva Kyle. Geneva said he knows "a little" about swimming but wants to learn more.

Faith Morrow, 6, sits beside the pool in a lime-green swimsuit.

"She plays in the water, she needs to learn how to swim," said her grandfather, Booker T. Morrow.

Morrow said he knew McKinnon played in the NFL but his main concern for Faith was water safety.

"These kids would come even if McKinnon wasn't a football player," said Suzette Dye, supervisor at Carrie Matthews. "They're so grateful for the opportunity to learn."

Dye said the swim camp answers a huge need in the community, since most of the families who use Carrie Matthews can't afford private swimming lessons. Many of the children who frequent Carrie Matthews do not know how to swim, she said.

Water safety is the main goal of the camp, said Andrea Percle, aquatics supervisor at the Aquadome.

"Kids need to learn how to protect themselves around the water," she said. "Our goal is that by the end of the week, every child will know how to be safe around the pool."

Both Percle and Dye worked with the McKinnons to organize the swimming camp.

Percle said the McKinnons came to her with the idea in early June.

She and Dye alerted the public by posting fliers at recreation and day-care centers.

Sponsors

"A lot of Decatur businesses helped sponsor the camp," Shana McKinnon said. "We feel like we've had a lot of success connecting with the community."

One of the advantages of swim camp rather than football camp is that girls can participate as well as boys, she said.

The McKinnons' two daughters, Rya and Raven, are both taking lessons at Carrie Matthews.

"Most of the children we've seen are improving," Ronald McKinnon said.

"We're getting more and more kids every day. They're having fun and telling their friends about it."

Ronald McKinnon played for both the Arizona Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints during his 10-year NFL career. He played linebacker for the University of North Alabama before going on to professional ball.

During that time, he became the first defensive player to
win the Harlon Hill Trophy award.

He also was a three-time consensus first team All-American.

The McKinnon family resides in Birmingham, although they own a business in
Decatur.

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