Betsy Stern
Childhood Cancer Awareness Month | How to Help Support Families Here in Madison

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month | How to Help Support Families Here in Madison

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s a perfect time to bring attention and awareness to the devastation of childhood cancer. Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is acknowledged by cancer organizations around the world with the hopes of raising awareness and funds for those affected.

Here in the United States alone, the statistics are heartbreaking.

Every 3 minutes, a family hears the devastating words that their child has been diagnosed with cancer. 

Every year, an estimated 15,780 children are diagnosed with cancer.

A shocking 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. 

If you’re wondering what YOU can do to help, here are some suggestions locally and nationally:

Participate or Host and Event: There are options nationally or locally, but you can also think beyond this list to ways you can creatively fundraise – and involve your own kids. Host a lemonade stand? A toy sale in your front yard? If you’re interested in a more official option, you will find a few below that support advocacy, education and families of childhood cancer patients.

  • PJammin for Kids With Cancer: This is a national event you can bring to your local business or school to help support the cause – by wearing PJs! 
  • Go Gold For Kids with Cancer:
  • Badger Childhood Cancer Network: Locally, the Badger Childhood Cancer Network hosts fundraising events, such as their Super Hero Fun Run, with funds supporting families locally.

Get Involved with Advocacy: If you’re interested in supporting the cause through legislation, there are organizations you can get involved with on a local or national level. Here in Madison, the Badger Childhood Cancer Network advocates for legislation that will increase funding for research and cures for cancer. Nationally, the American Childhood Cancer Organization helps shape policy that will make childhood cancer a health priority. 

  • Badger Childhood Cancer Network We advocate for the needs of children with cancer and blood disorders. We support legislation at the state and local level that will increase funding for more effective and safer cures for childhood cancers and blood disorders, and for the many medical issues faced by survivors of these diseases.
  • American Childhood Cancer Organization ACCO proudly serves as the largest grassroots voice for children affected by cancer and the only U.S. member of Childhood Cancer International. We are dedicated to raising awareness and shaping policy at the local, state, and federal levels to make childhood cancer a health priority.


  • American Family Children’s Hospital We are so lucky to have American Family Children’s Hospital right here in Madison, and they are always looking for volunteers – from helping in their Safety Center to becoming a “Buddy” to a child in the hospital, there are tons of ways to get involved and make a difference. 


  • Badger Childhood Cancer Network: Help support local families in need with financial assistance. Badger Childhood Cancer Network offers a great program called “Adopt a Family” which matches a needy family with a local donor.
  • American Family Children’s Hospital: Help check off an item or two from American Family’s “Wish Lists”. Many items like PlayDoh or Markers are used regularly to help cheer up a child staying in the hospital.

Spread the Word: Something as simple as following local organizations on social media can help support the cause by bringing awareness and attention to the important work they’re doing. Like or share social media posts on Facebook or Instagram, and stay informed on legislation for childhood cancer. 

While no family wants to hear their child has cancer, we can do everything possible to help them feel supported through their journey. For more information, visit:




Meet Alyssa: SwimWest CSR, Instructor, Guard, Swim&Gym Counselor

Meet Alyssa: SwimWest CSR, Instructor, Guard, Swim&Gym Counselor

If you’re a regular SwimWest family at our Deming location, chances are high you’ve seen Alyssa. She is an all star Swim Instructor, Customer Service Rep (helping with questions, phone calls, scheduling and more!) and a Counselor for Swim&Gym Camp. We are so lucky to have her on the team!

Here are some fun facts about Alyssa!

1. How long have you lived in the Madison area?

I have lived here 3 and a half years, and what brought me here were the friendly people of Madison and a want for something new!

2. What’s your day like at SwimWest?

During the busier days at SwimWest, I enjoy how much excitement is always going on!

3. 3 Things you Love about SwimWest

I love the friends I’ve made, the families I work with and the memories I will have forever!

4. Favorite Madison area restaurant

Sugar River Pizza for sure.

5. Wisconsin Winters or Wisconsin Summers?

Definitely the summers! The wild flowers here are so pretty!

6. Favorite Swim Stroke


7. Something You’re Looking Forward to

I’m looking forward to Autumn, and seeing the leaves change colors.

8. Something you have learned from your job

I have learned to be more patient and forgiving, thanks to SwimWest!

If you see Alyssa around the pool, make sure to say hello!

Back to School + Back to the Pool

Back to School + Back to the Pool

While this school year will certainly look (ahem) different for many families, the end of summer is in sight, and it’s time to begin planning out what the school year calendar will look like in the midst of COVID.

In a normal year, parents may be willing to pack their after-school evenings with enrichment activities, but this year many families are simplifying their routines and cutting back on non-essential outings. It’s hard enough navigating which activities are still available this year, but trying to figure out what a typical day will look like when school is SO different is enough to stress out even the most chill parent around. So how do you choose? How do you know what to keep and what to toss in a year in which ALL things feel different?

While you’re considering your options this fall, we hope to have you back in the pool with us at SwimWest. 

If you’re looking for an activity that will limit your child’s exposure to others, keep them active and give them the chance to socialize a bit, look no further! SwimWest has extensive safety procedures in place to make sure your kids stay safe while swimming. With small class sizes, fewer families in the viewing room and locker rooms and many other safety changes, our facilities are ready and able to accommodate another year of lessons.

It may be tempting to take this year off with everything going on in the world, but consistency in swim lessons is key to keeping your child safe in and around the water. Beyond the simple fact that swimming is fun, there are tons of reasons to keep swimming year-round. 

Here are a few benefits of year-round swim lessons:

  1. It keeps kids active ALL year round. We live in Wisconsin and our weather gets nasty quickly in the fall. Without the commitment to an exercise program, it’s all too easy to stay on the couch under a blanket. Kids become much less active when they can’t easily get outside to play on the playground, ride bikes or kick a soccer ball around. Swimming gives them a full-body workout – even in the middle of winter!
  2. It keeps them ready for swim team. For older swimmers, year round lessons keep them practicing the skills and endurance they need for summer swim team. 
  3. It relieves stress. Many studies have shown that swimming is an excellent way to relieve stress…and if we EVER needed a year to relieve stress, 2020 is it.
  4. It builds confidence. Kids swim at their own pace and their own level. Teachers are able to meet kids where they are at and help them build on their skills. 
  5. It gives them an opportunity to build social skills. The pool is a great “ice breaker”. Kids love to splash and generally enjoy the water. Kids find ways to connect as they learn new skills, play games, tell jokes with their instructors and learn together.

This is definitely a year we’ll never forget! We hope to see you at the pool!

For more information about our safety measures, visit:



Keeping Calm and Staying Sane | Back to School Tips for the 2020 Year

Keeping Calm and Staying Sane | Back to School Tips for the 2020 Year

Parents, I feel your pain. Your stress. Your panic. I feel it ALL. We have been trying to figure out 2020 since March and this fall will be no exception to the rule. Whether you are homeschooling, virtual schooling, private schooling or some hybrid version, this year isn’t going to feel normal, and the unknown is debilitating for many of us.

I’m not an expert, but I AM a parent of 2 elementary aged children and I have been deep in the trenches since March. Here are a few tips that have helped my family stay sane:

  1. Get outside. Nature is healing, and we live in a community full of beautiful lakes, hikes, forests and streams. Pheasant Branch is a favorite of ours, but we’ve branched out to local county parks, too. We especially love taking our kids to Donald County Park (the kids love looking for fish in the stream), Blue Mounds State Park (less busy than Devil’s Lake or Governor Nelson, but still fun for hiking) and Stewart Lake. Out in the elements you can *almost* forget we are in the middle of a pandemic. We try to get outside for a long walk every day.
  2. Find your crew. If you are able to find neighbors or friends that have similar thoughts on safety, social distancing, masks, etc, it’s great to get together with others. My kids have been lucky enough to play fairly frequently with neighbors, which has helped their mental health tremendously. We all have similar mindsets about the pandemic which is key to being comfortable with people outside our family.
  3. Take breaks. Screen breaks, naps, baths, quiet time, reading time. Whatever it is that helps you (or your kids) reset is fair game in my mind. Sometimes I pop on a movie and go hide in my room to read a book because my mental health has to be considered, too. I have let go of my screen-time guilt and consider this year survival mode. We all do what we need to do to get through the day and I’ve decided an extra movie in the afternoon once in a while is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. 
  4. Find activities you CAN do. I already mentioned getting out in nature, but there are still other activities open and available this year. Many local businesses are offering special programming this fall – with safety measures in place – to keep kids active or give parents a break. SwimWest is launching a brand new school year program with health and safety top of mind. From Swim & Recess Lessons to Family Open Swim to Swim&Gym Day Camp, there are tons of options for busy families.

Other local businesses are also offering special options this year:
** SwimWest Swim School
** Engineering for Kids
** Badger Gymnastics
** Monroe Street Arts Center
** The Little Gym of Middleton

Hang in there, folks. Things may not be normal this year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be great. Feel free to share your own tips for staying sane below!

For more information about SwimWest’s school year options, look for the Fall Programming tabs on our homepage!

Teaching your Child to Swim When You Never Learned

Teaching your Child to Swim When You Never Learned

It’s a scorching hot summer day and your little one is begging you for a trip to the local pool. You throw on a swimsuit, pack up the swim towels and sunscreen and hop in the car. On the way, the pit in your stomach grows bigger and bigger. 

Here’s the thing: 

Maybe you hate the pool. 

Maybe you never learned to swim. 

Maybe you’re afraid of the water. 

Maybe you had a traumatic experience as a child. 

Maybe you feel self conscious.

No matter the reason why swimming makes you nervous, you are not alone. More than ⅓ of adults can’t swim the length of a pool – putting them at risk of drowning. The good news is, even if YOU struggle in the water, you can still make sure your child learns to swim. In fact, with drowning a leading cause of accidental death in young children, it’s critical you give your child the opportunity to feel comfortable and secure in the water.

Here are a few tips to help you as you navigate the pool with your child:

  1. Consider taking an adult swim class. Did you know many places offer adult swim lessons for beginners? Check out your local rec department or swim schools and see if you can sign up for a few lessons. Beyond helping your confidence, you will be able to share some of the swim tips you learn with your little one. 
  2. Be Positive. It’s easy to pass your fears onto your kids. They pick up on your tone of voice, your body language and tend to get to participate in the same activities you enjoy. Treat swim lessons the same way you treat any other life skill – from reading, counting, ABC’s, crossing the street or eating a healthy meal – it’s critical and should be a priority. 
  3. Do some Research. Maybe you talk with their swim instructor to pick up some tips on how to teach them at the pool. Maybe you read some articles or watch some videos about teaching basic swim skills. Whatever you choose, find a way to help your child learn the basics – like blowing bubbles, sticking their “eyes” in the water, rolling over onto their back and how to climb out of the pool. 
  4. Play! Make the water a “fun” space – for your child AND for you! Stay in the shallow end and blow bubbles together, or sing songs as you splash. Find a way to connect with your child in the pool and give them a chance to form positive associations with the water.
  5. Do Start Small. Don’t jump into the deep end if you’re not comfortable under water. Don’t expect to learn to swim laps overnight. Don’t try to catch your child off the diving board right away. It’s important to learn the basics and move at your own pace.

No matter how you feel about swimming, it’s definitely possible to help your child learn to swim. Even if you never get in the water yourself, you can make sure your child learns from a swim instructor and you can make sure they have the tools they need to stay safer in the water. For more information about learning to swim as an adult, check out these resources:


5 Tips to Keep your Backyard Pool Safe

5 Tips to Keep your Backyard Pool Safe

What’s not to love about a backyard pool?  

Dipping your toes in the water on a hot day? Floating around on an inflatable raft with an icy cold drink and a book? Laying in the sun while your kids splash and play (ideally without fighting for three seconds)? 


There are tons of reasons why backyard pools are a blast…and with the pandemic shutting down many of our local splash pads and swimming pools, they are more popular than ever. (Try looking for a baby pool online right now – I dare ya!) No matter the size of your pool – from an in-ground with a diving board to a baby pool with a few inches of water – there’s always the risk of drowning, and ALWAYS the need to remain constantly vigilant. 

Keep your family, friends and neighbors safe by making sure you follow these suggestions from Pool Safely:

  1. Never Leave a Child Unattended in the Water. Yes, it’s tempting to zone out while your kids are having fun. It’s tempting to make a phone call, check email or pick up the kitchen “real quickly”. Here’s the thing: Kids can drown in just minutes. The time it takes to run inside for a bathroom break is long enough for a child to struggle. Commit to watching the water, or make sure you designate another responsible adult. Consider hiring a lifeguard to help at pool parties if you think you’ll be distracted.
  2. Keep a Phone Nearby. Just in case you need to call for help, you should always have a phone handy and accessible.
  3. Teach Children to Stay Away from Drains. Hair, limbs, jewelry or bathing suits can all get stuck in drains or suction openings. Teach children what drains look like and how to stay away from them. Never enter a pool that’s missing a drain cover – powerful suction from a pool or spa drain can even trap an adult. 
  4. Make Sure to Install Proper Barriers. It may seem obvious, but make sure your pool has barriers in place to prevent access. Ideally your pool should have layers of protection – a locked fence, an alarm, a self-latching gate and a pool cover. 
  5. Learn CPR. If you have a pool in your yard, make sure you know CPR in case of emergency. Bystanders are often the first to reach a victim and knowing CPR could save someone’s life in an emergency. CPR classes are taught regularly through hospitals and community centers.

For more information on keeping your pool safe, visit Pool Safely or Safe Kids.


Meet Kassy: Coffee lover + Jack of All Trades

We just love our team here at SwimWest and are beyond proud to introduce you all to Kassy, our very own jack-of-all-trades. You’ve probably seen her around our Deming Way location as she bounces from front desk to the pool to the deck. She’s always got a smile and knows how to push and encourage even the littlest swimmers.

Here are some fun facts about Kassy:

1. How long have you lived in the Madison area?

8 years

2. What’s your day like at SwimWest?

I am anywhere from in the pool, on deck, or helping out at the front desk!

3. 3 Things you Love about SwimWest

The Kids, Water, my Team

4. Favorite Madison area restaurant

Moka (coffee shop)

5. Wisconsin Winters or Wisconsin Summers?

Summers! I go to the EAA Airventure every Summer

6. Favorite Swim Stroke


7. Something You’re Looking Forward to

Going to see family at the end of Summer

8. Something you have learned from your job

The importance of Teamwork/having a Team
Make sure you say hello if you see Kassy around the pool!