The princess in the pool. Sounds like a fairytale out of a modern storybook, right?
But it was a dream come true for more than 40 children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica’s Saint Anne School branch on Wednesday, May 11, when they were invited to the Annenberg Community Beach House to swim with Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco.
The princess, a former Olympic swimmer for South Africa, was there to launch the U.S. chapter of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes water safety, sports and education programs, particularly for children.
Mayor Tony Vazquez presented a Mayoral Proclamation to the princess to mark the occasion as “The Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation – USA Launch Day.”
“I am thrilled today to receive this proclamation, from the honorable and distinguished mayor of Santa Monica, Tony Vazquez, recognizing the launch of the American chapter of my foundation and initiating our very first Learn to Swim session in the United States,” Princess Charlene said upon receiving the proclamation.
“Every day, all around the world, thousands of innocent lives are lost because of drowning. Very often this tragic loss of life is preventable. That is why I have been committed to this cause for many years and why I continue to do so through my foundation, active in 27 countries around the world. I am proud to say that in the last four years we have implemented over 100 swimming, water safety, sport and education programs.
“Teaching children and adults simple water safety techniques, we can save lives and fight these shameful figures of death by drowning. By empowering children and adults, by cooperating and sharing experiences and resources with local authorities, educators and parents, we can make a difference. Today we bring our message to this great country so together we may offer more children and adults, the tools to survive in aquatic environments regardless of their background.”
Vazquez was thrilled that the princess chose Santa Monica as the location for the U.S. launch of the foundation.
“Oh I’m honored, and to be the mayor at the time when this is happening is great,” Vazquez said. “Growing up here on the Westside, I remember as a kid I used to hang out on the beaches back in the day and didn’t even know how dangerous it is, especially when you have strong currents like a riptide coming through here.”
Princess Charlene, along with U.S. Olympians Greg Louganis and Dara Torres, led the children, ages 8 – 13, through water safety challenges set up by the Safer 3 Water Safety Foundation.
Louganis said he was happy to partner up with the princess in her endeavor.
“The thing that we have in common is aquatics and it makes so much sense to be involved in water safety and teaching kids and young adults, and it’s really an issue around the world. And for her to be tackling this on a global level is tremendous.”
The gold medalist noted that water safety is tremendously relevant in a city like Santa Monica.
“Water safety is very important, especially here in Santa Monica, because you do have the ocean. It is tremendously important.”
The foundation’s U.S. board of directors includes, as its president, Her Excellency Maguy Maccario Doyle, Monaco’s Ambassador to the United States, who joined the princess at the event to promote the U.S. launch.
“We were thrilled she decided to open the first overseas chapter,” Ambassador Doyle said. “Making sure the public understands the health problems related to drowning, which can be underestimated, is so important. … In spite of it all, there are no global efforts started to target that, so that’s why it was so important to respond to this.”
As for the children who got a chance to swim with royalty, they were anything but speechless.
“I got to pull [Princess Charlene] on the lifesaver,” said 11-year-old Aine. “I love to swim, it is one of the things I just love and to be able to swim with the princess, it is just so much more awesome.”
Photo (c) Getty/Palais Princier