One of the most respected names in swimming, Doug Ingram, will travel to KwaZulu-Natal this month for the launch of a unique global swimming initiative.

The Frankie and Friends LLC Global Campaign will be launched at the 50th anniversary of the world’s largest open water event – the aQuellé Midmar Mile, on 12 February.

Ingram is a former US Olympic swimming coach and former member of the USA Olympic Committee who now consults for several Olympic committees, and also has a passion for water safety and Learn-to-Swim programmes.

The Frankie and Friends LLC Global Campaign, featuring the loveable frog character, Frankie, promotes water safety and the importance of swimming as a life skill, as well as the need to make swimming lessons more easily accessible to all – to reduce drownings.

Another goal of the campaign is raising the standard of Learn-to Swim instruction through ongoing Teach the Teacher/ Coach initiatives.

“It’s really tragic how many people drown, especially under the age of five, and especially in underserved communities,” said Ingram. “There’s so much water on this planet that everybody needs to learn how to swim.

“My passion was sparked and kindled way back in my early career, but it’s continued all the way through – the more people we teach to swim, the further our reach is, the more we spread this particular [Frankie and Friends] methodology, the better we’re going to be as a planet as a whole,” he added.

Frankie And Friends (LLC) will be setting up a pop-up pool at the aQuellé Midmar Mile which will allow members of the public free access to a Learn-to-Swim lesson.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have the launch of the Frankie and Friends LLC Global Campaign taking place as part of the celebrations for the 50th aQuellé Midmar Mile,” said race director Wayne Riddin.

“What better place to launch this worldwide initiative than right here in South Africa, where there is a great need for programmes like this one and where learning to swim is such a basic but vital skill? We have far too many drownings in this country each year and Frankie and Friends will go a long way to reducing those heart-breaking numbers.”

Meanwhile, also part of the campaign is helping identify talented swimmers from disadvantaged families and assisting them with high-performance training – the ultimate goal of representing their country and competing on the international stage.

“If you’re going to be an Olympic swimmer, you have to start somewhere and Learn to Swim is where it begins so it’s really key that we don’t forget our roots and don’t forget the fact that we all have to learn at some point and learn properly,” said Ingram.