Florida ranks number one in the country for toddler drowning.

You've probably seen the viral videos of kids wearing floaties or sitting in floats, surrounded by other kids and almost drowning.

Something like a floatie is not going to protect your kid 100%. The best thing you can do for your child is to make sure they learn how to swim.

Cost is what turns some families away.

Thursday morning community pools and aquatic centers around the Tampa Bay area participated in the World’s largest swim lesson, where kids along with parents could attend free of charge.

This is the eight year; the international event took place in hundreds of locations in 20 countries over 24 hours.

“The idea is just to increase awareness and advocate for children getting swimming lessons at a young age,” says Paula Scott, Director of Public Relations for Children’s Board Hillsborough County.

Mother of three, Tiona Hart, took advantage of the free classes.

“Kids are drowning younger and younger. Also, the older ones. So, I thought it was best to bring her and my two others out today,” says Hart. “It was a great relief but I wish there was more.”

For some families like Hart’s, they simply can't afford swim lessons unless they're free.

“I was looking around they're very pricey. Even at the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, it was very difficult to find a swim lesson,” she says.

Let’s take the fees at Copeland pool for example.

  • A family will pay $50 for a Recreation Card.
  • Classes for kids are $24 for 8 lessons, which doesn't seem like a lot.
  • It adds up to 192 dollars for one child.
  • If you have three kids like Hart does, that's $576
  • Let’s add the $50 dollar for that rec card, it’s $626 for swim lessons.

There are options.

St. Joseph's Hospital teamed up with The City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department to give free swim lessons to kids.

Children ages 3 to 12 are eligible to receive a swim lesson voucher in St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s Safety Store if they are Hillsborough County residents and are enrolled in one of the following:

  • Medicaid
  • Hillsborough County School’s Free Lunch Program
  • SNAP-Food Assistance Program

Caregivers must provide proof of eligibility to receive their voucher. Vouchers are available while supplies last. Call the Safety Store at (813) 554-8510 to schedule an appointment.

“It’s good for 6 to 8 swim lessons for a child. That's important and it's free, so important swim lessons save lives,” says Jaime Verberne with St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The Children’s Board Hillsborough County.also gave out whistles to promote "water watchers."

It's a pledge for an adult to keep their eyes on the children that are in or near water to help prevent them from drowning.

Giving kids knowledge with how to stay safe in the water.