In early 2019, the Torigian Family YMCA was awarded a $24,950 grant from the JB Thomas Lahey Foundation to support a Safety Around Water Partnership with Peabody Public Schools. Through the collaboration, every second grade student in Peabody will learn about water safety through an in-school presentation led by YMCA staff, and receive a voucher for a free, 7 week swim lesson to be redeemed at the Torigian Family YMCA on Lynnfield Street in Peabody.

Robert Lowell, Executive Director of the Torigian Family YMCA, brought the idea to Cara Murtagh, the Superintendent of Peabody Public Schools and the partnership was born. Says Superintendent Murtagh, “The Peabody Public Schools are so pleased to have built this wonderful partnership with the Torigian YMCA. We are offering opportunities for our Peabody students to lead, learn, teach and thrive in and out of the classroom, giving them the proper tools to succeed! Our second graders have had lessons around water safety, will have the opportunity to sign up for swimming lessons at the YMCA, and they have also been invited to attend a family night with their family and classmates at the YMCA.”

This past spring, staff from the Y including Aquatics Directors Jose Medina and Andrew Lamson as well as Rob Lowell, have visited a number of Peabody elementary schools with vouchers, swim caps, and other giveaways. Says Rob of the program, “With summer break approaching, thousands of Peabody students will be enjoying the warm weather not only in our own pools at the Y, but at neighborhood pools, beaches, ponds, and waterparks.  The Y will do everything we can to ensure the safety and happiness of children in our community. We are so excited to partner with Peabody Public Schools and JB Thomas Lahey Foundation to make water safety more accessible to all.”

The presentations are not only focused on the importance of learning to swim, but follow a national curriculum set forth by the YMCA of USA around water awareness and safety.  The Y is “America’s Swim Instructor” and the most accessible community resource to prevent drowning and encourage a lifelong enjoyment of swimming. The Y introduced the country to the concept of group swim lessons more than 100 years ago, and each year, the Y teaches more than a million children in the US invaluable water safety and swimming skills. As one of the largest community-based organizations in the country, the Y owns or manages over 2,000 pools. Thanks to its size and reach, the Y is in a unique position to help bridge the gap in the delivery of swim lessons and water safety education in the U.S.—especially in underserved communities, where low income youth and youth of color have drastically higher drowning rates than their peers.

The partnership’s funder, the JB Thomas Lahey Foundation, provides grants to support initiatives that are designed to benefit the general health and well-being of Peabody residents. In 1898, Josiah B. Thomas, a prominent manufacturer and citizen who took an active part in the government of Peabody, left $50,000 in his will to establish a hospital in town. In 1907, the J.B. Thomas Hospital was opened. Decades later, Louis Marques, the son of Portuguese immigrants, was born at the hospital. A lifelong Peabody resident and security guard at Eastman Gelatine for 41 years, he wanted to help people with health-related problems. In his will, he bequeathed substantial funds to the J.B. Thomas Hospital. When the hospital became the Lahey Medical Center, these funds were used to create the J.B. Thomas Lahey Foundation.

For more information about redeeming free swim lessons at the Torigian Family YMCA please contact Senior Aquatics Director, Andrew Lamson, at