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Chalmers, Jones Surprise Kids at Milander Pool

By DeAndré Phillips

HEAT rookie Mario Chalmers and forward/guard James Jones made a surprise visit to Milander Pool in Hialeah to teach the attending children the importance of water safety. Chalmers and Jones, who were joined by Community Affairs Liaison Wali Jones, the Xtreme Team, Burnie and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida South Florida Market President Penny Shaffer came out to support the HEAT summer-long “Learn to Swim” community water safety campaign, where the HEAT, along with the American Red Cross, visit pool locations throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties to stress the importance of learning how to swim.

In addition, the HEAT offered $10 off swimming lesson coupons to be redeemed at select authorized providers of Red Cross swimming lessons.

“I know how to swim,” Chalmers said. “I took lessons when I was younger, so I’m prepared to get in the water and give the kids a few lessons. I think it’s very important to learn water safety. We’re surrounded by a lot of water so it’s a good idea to learn how to swim.”

Florida is surrounded by water – vast oceans, lakes and rivers and countless swimming pools. And unfortunately, Florida ranks first nationally in drowning fatalities for children under the age of five. Moreover, Florida’s overall drowning death rate is twice the national rate in all drowning fatalities, and Miami-Dade County leads the state.

City of Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina also stopped by to show his support for the Learn to Swim initiative.

“It’s important for the City of Hialeah to team up with the Miami HEAT and bring out to these young men and women the importance of learning how to swim, pool safety and the importance of taking those lessons back to their families, friends and schools,” he said.

Growing up in Miami, Jones especially knows the importance of water safety. That’s why he took time away from training for the upcoming season to get in the pool to help kids from his hometown learn to swim.

“This is what you live for – having an opportunity to give back to the community and teaching them something that’s very beneficial for them and that’s pool and water safety,” Jones said.

“Anytime you hear about a tragedy with a child involving water, it hurts your heart because you know it could have been prevented,” he said. “Initiatives like the Learn to Swim campaign are imperative. Hopefully, they can teach their friends and counteract some of those bad instances.”

Jones, who signed with the HEAT on July 9, has played for the Pacers, Suns and Trail Blazers during his first five NBA seasons. After living in different cities where the weather wasn’t always conducive to swimming, the 2003 second round draft pick is happy to be back in South Florida where he and his family can enjoy water activities year round.

“My daughter loves to swim,” he said, “but when you’re in Indiana, it’s freezing, when you’re in Phoenix, it’s hot and there’s no water, and Portland, it rains all day. Being back in Miami, it’s a perfect environment to enjoy the water.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida is also a sponsor of the Learn to Swim water safety campaign. To learn more about the HEAT’s Learn to Swim initiative, visit