Learn to Swim Legacy Fund and Sport Northland

Posted on: 02/02/21

In 1969 Ester Keesing-Styles established the Okau Amateur Swimming Club, which provided competitive swimming activities and swimming lessons for their local community. Ester was the driving force behind the club, and the lessons, and remained involved until her death in 1997. Little did she know that the Club’s activities would cease, but the vision for swim safety lessons could remain via the creation of a legacy fund for learn-to-swim lessons in the Whangarei district.

Ester’s original vision for the swimming lessons was that all kids, regardless of their situation, should be taught to swim so as to enjoy the numerous waterways that abound in the Whangarei district safely. The Okau Swimming Club provided the learn-to-swim lessons for kids in Whangarei during the summer season in addition to the club’s competitive swimming activities. In 1997 Ester passed away and bequeathed funds to the club, with the intention of the club continuing the swimming lessons.  Heather Aitkins and Shirley Gray, members of the club at the time, where able to continue the delivery of the lessons charging a minimal fee, targeting those families that could not afford the mainstream learn-to-swim lessons. However, with both Shirley and Heather retiring from the Club recently, they wanted to ensure Ester’s dream lived on and as such were able to partner with the Northland Community Foundation to transfer the residual funds from the club, with a substantial donation from Heather, to establish a Northland Learn2Swim Fund under the umbrella of the Northland Sports Fund within the Foundation.