SIDNEY – The Sidney Daily News, in cooperation with Minster Bank, Ruese Insurance and Fricker’s, will sponsor the 32nd annual Water Safety Program, also known as Splash, for all local children June 4-7 at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA, 300 Parkwood St.
The week-long program is free of charge to children who are at least 3-years-old up to the sixth-grade, with costs incurred by the sponsors. For the past 32 years, the Sidney Daily News has been a major sponsor.
Registration is required, with forms being available at area schools and the Sidney Daily News. Participants may choose their desired class time, but sessions will be assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. Families need not be members of the YMCA to register.
“This program is at the heart of the YMCA and our mission to impact the community by partnering with the Sidney Daily News and the other sponsors, Minster Bank, Ruese Insurance and Fricker’s,” said David O’Leary, operations director of the YMCA. “With the support of our sponsors, we are able to provide this free program that teaches important life saving skills of water safety.”
This years’s theme is “Emoji in and SWIM!”
The 45 minute annual program usually has 300 to 400 children learn the basics of pool safety, backyard pool safety, boating safety, beach safety, and basic swimming and rescue skills from volunteer instructors and YMCA staff members. Children ages 3-5, who have not completed Kindergarten, are welcome to enroll, but must be accompanied by a parent in the water.
The goal of the program is to have every child learn the “starfish” method, which is floating on your back. This position will help a child if they fall into the water, and are by themselves, or are accidentally pushed you into a deeper part of the water where they cannot touch the bottom, for example.
O’Leary said the program’s goal is the same as with past years, when the message was for participants not to be worried about their eyes or ears, but rather their mouth, because that’s what keeps you alive in the starfish position.
During the week long program, children will learn how to save themselves, as well as safety tactics to help a friend without having to jump into the water. And aside from water safety, they are also taught the stroke technique and the importance of skin care.
The program originally began as the need arose to teach basic safety skills after a child drowned over 30 years ago. Typically, about 80 percent of participants have had no swim lessons prior to the first day of “Splash” and each year they have many repeat attendees and volunteers.
“(Water safety week) takes a lot of people. We couldn’t do it without our staff and all of the volunteers. We are so grateful for all of these people, and our sponsors,” O’Leary said.
Even though it is reiterated to children to never be near or get into the water when alone, the program is intended to make them more comfortable with water and get them excited to become swimmers. The YMCA hopes this introduction to water will result in more children taking swim lessons and possibly future swim team members.
The initial swim class begins with an introduction to water for children as young as six months up to three years old, and then the succession of classes are intended to strengthen youngsters’ skills over time.
“What can be better than a parent having peace of mind as we enter summer with time spent around pools and the lakes during the warm weather,” O’Leary said.
As with past years, and all programs at the YMCA, O’Leary said they hope water safety week will instill the YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.
Each day through out the week children will learn one of the core values. At the end of each class, each child will get a piece of paper with the program’s theme and value tied together and are asked to color the picture a certain color if they have exhibited the value of the day. When the children return with their art, the pool area walls will then be covered for a month or two for parents and others to view.
O’Leary said not only do they want participants to learn important life saving skills, but they also want it to be a fun experience for the children as they integrate a different theme each year along with the YMCA’s Christian values.
At the end of the week, each participant will receive a certificate of completion and the YMCA hosts a pizza party for the volunteers, during which they will receive a T-shirt for their participation.
“The Sidney Daily News is excited to be part of the YMCA’s Water Safety program again this year to help provide area children with valuable life saving skills,” said Natalie Buzzard, general manager and advertising director of the Sidney Daily News. “The paper, along with Minster Bank, Ruese Insurance and Fricker’s, is proud to provide local children with the opportunity to participate is this important program that will hopefully help save lives.”