Goldfish Swim School owner impacting kids here and in Belize
Alex Tyler's passion for swimming is not only impacting kids in the Chicago suburbs, but also a country 2,700 miles away.
Tyler, a franchise owner of two Goldfish Swim School locations in Glen Ellyn and St. Charles, started a "CandyGram" campaign in February to raise $9,000 to support children in Gales Point, Belize, a small, remote fishing village in Central America.
Tyler, a former Northwestern University swimmer, went on a church mission trip to the country with his family in 2014. He found the people to be joyful and welcoming, despite challenging circumstances in the region.
That mission trip turned into additional visits, where he's been teaching the Belizean children how to swim. Because of the pandemic, he was unable to make the trip this year. Staff members from both of his schools have joined him on previous trips.
Tyler's swim students have written letters and made pictures to exchange with the children in Belize, and Goldfish families have supported the efforts with monetary and supply donations.
But Tyler didn't let the pandemic stop his support of the community.
With the efforts of 20 Goldfish School locations, the "CandyGram" campaign raised $9,000. For $1, a handwritten note with an attached piece of candy could be sent to a favorite instructor or friend in class.
The money will pay for on year of high school tuition for 45 students. Tyler said access to secondary education in Gales Point is one of the major challenges for families.
"The scholarships are a way that we can have a lasting impact on the village for future generations as more and more children have the opportunity to get an education and share their skills and knowledge with their community," he said.
"Gales Point is a village that is surrounded by water. Teaching these kids safety skills is essential so they can understand how to be safe in and around the water. Learning how to swim not only reduces their risk of drowning, but it improves their quality of life."
Besides swimming lessons, Tyler's team has made infrastructure improvements in the village. They've built houses, a classroom and a library. They also renovated a church/community building and installed a playground at an elementary school.
Tyler said he is looking forward to taking a team of volunteers to Belize in 2022.
"Our Goldfish students and families have supported our efforts in Gales Point, Belize, in many ways over the years," Tyler said. "I think that it is a great opportunity for kids to connect with peers and learn about another culture and way of life. Despite differences in our day-to-day lives, we all have a lot in common."