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The Bluff Presents: The Origin Story of our Partner Non-profit “SWIM!”

Just over seven years ago, The Bluff’s owners Bruce and Jan Bylsma were inspired by an article in the local news. Tom Rademacher, a now retired columnist for The Press, had written a piece entitled, “Summer is perfect time to teach kids life-saving skill”. This article’s aim was to draw attention to the epidemic of child-drownings and asked readers to think about swim safety more seriously. But Rademacher didn’t end his article with an empty call to action. Stating that he would “put a little money alongside his mouth,” he pledged to buy $200 worth of swim lessons for those who couldn’t afford it for as far as that amount of money would go. Reading the article closely, Bruce and Jan were struck with a deep conviction to help.


They decided to reach out to Rademacher, hoping to add a contribution to the cause. Inspired by the need and requests for lessons in the area, the Bylsma’s decided they needed to contribute more than a donation.


After some logistics and startup planning, SWIM! (An acronym for Safe Water Instruction Matters!), the non-profit organization, was born. With the help of Rademacher and his follow-up article, “Column helps unite efforts to stem drownings in West Michigan with free swim lessons,” The Bylsma’s began receiving pledges, donations and plenty of requests for lessons.

Since it’s beginning in 2011, SWIM! has been able to help children across the West Michigan area by covering the costs of swimming instructions. Through fund matching and plenty of donor support, the organization has been able to cover lessons each summer.


Safe water instruction matters, and our goal is to provide it to our surrounding community. If you are interested in learning more about SWIM! or you would like to donate to the cause, please visit our website at Together, we can prevent childhood drownings.