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Keen Teams with Outdoor Afro and YMCA to Address Black Youth Drowning Crisis

Keen, the brand that claims to be on a mission to make outside inclusive and accessible to all, is expanding its Making Waves partnership with Outdoor Afro, a not-for-profit organization celebrating and inspiring Black connections and leadership in nature, and the YMCA, nationwide. First launched in 2019, the program is an awareness and fundraising campaign highlighting the alarming statistic that Black children are nearly six times more likely to die from drowning than white kids, according to the CDC. The partners want to change by raising funds for Swimmership scholarships (swimming lessons) held at YMCAs across the country.

“These alarming statistics demanded action,” states Rue Mapp, founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro. “We need to stop the drownings and give kids confidence in and around the water. It’s about saving lives and enabling stronger connections to our waterways and the outdoors. This is an important step in the right direction. We are most grateful that Keen has supported Making Waves for the last three years, and are excited that The Y is adding its strength to the effort. It’s great to see this all coming together.”

“The statistics speak for themselves,” says Erik Burbank, vice president of the Keen Effect. “We’re proud to be supporting Outdoor Afro on this movement, and it’s really motivating to have the YMCA joining the effort. Having a partner that can help us scale the program over time reinforces our ability to create change and have a significant effect on this issue.”

Also contributing to the cause is a limited-edition Outdoor Afro x Keen sandal collection. One percent of all sales will go to fund Swimmerships. The collection—including Newport H2 for men; Astoria West for women; and Newport H2 and Stingrays for kids—features artwork from Outdoor Afro volunteer leader, Leandra Taylor. Taylor has been an inspiration, teacher and friend to kids seeking to learn about the outdoor experience. The collection is available on and at retailers across the U.S., as well as select retailers in Canada, Europe and Japan.

Kids and their caregivers may sign up for Swimmerships on Outdoor Afro’s website beginning this summer. Each Swimmership provides new swimmer and 8-10 lessons. Individuals can sponsor sponsor on Outdoor Afro’s website: $10 for a lesson, $100 for a scholarship and $1,000 funds a full class.  To learn more or to sign up for a Swimmership, visit.

The March 2024 Issue

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