Oaklawn Fitness Center hosts swimming through Hampton Aquatics

Oaklawn Fitness Center hosts swimming through Hampton Aquatics

Oaklawn Fitness Center hosts swimming through Hampton Aquatics

Sarah Lee sat poolside at Oaklawn Fitness Center in Marshall, watching her two children learn the basics of swimming.

It was the second week of lessons for 5-year-old Savannah and 2-year-old Isaac, who were eager to work with their instructor from Hampton Aquatics and Fitness.

“They jumped right in last week, and I think they both will be fine,” Lee said. “They are both fishes when they are in the bathtub. It’s just for their own safety, I want to make sure they know what to do.”

Audrina Hampton launched Hampton Aquatics and Fitness in 2018. She first offered at-home swim lessons and training for competitive swimmers and triathletes. The business grew to serve nearly 400 clients in 2021, and now has a home pool, thanks to a partnership with Oaklawn Hospital that began in March.

Audrina Hampton, owner of Hampton Aquatics and Fitness, teaches children how to swim during a class inside the Oaklawn Fitness Center on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 in Marshall, Mich.

With more clients and classes on the schedule this year, Hampton added to her roster of swim instructors, and now has a 10-member staff. The first employee she hired happens to also be a mermaid.

Lesa Kenney, an elementary Spanish teacher at Harper Creek Community Schools, has been a swim instructor, lifeguard and water aerobics instructor for 15 years. She is also known as “Mermaid Lesa,” a character who can be booked for in-water and out-of-water appearances through Hampton Aquatics and Fitness.

“As a teacher, I use different voices. I speak Spanish with accents and entertain kids with characters and voices. So being a mermaid, it is magical,” Kenney said. “Even before I started working with Audrina, I introduced my persona or ‘mer-sona’ to kids I was working with before… It’s a great feeling when you see kids light up like that.”

Payton Thomson, 9, and Maci Brown, 11, pose with mermaid Lesa Kenney during Cereal Fest Saturday, June 11, 2022, at downtown Battle Creek.

Keeping safety in mind

Kenney donned one of her five mermaid tails and was in costume during the 2022 Cereal Fest in Battle Creek, taking photos while sitting in an inflatable pool filled with “Froot Loops.” She said she often warns families that swimming in a mermaid tail can be dangerous if not equipped with a fin.

“There are families who buy mermaid tails for kids, but they aren’t monitoring or supervising them,” she said. “I’ve heard those horror stories where they are almost dying from improper usage. Swimming around with legs bound, not even a fin in it to propel forward. It’s important for families to be aware of the safety in that regard.”

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