SIDNEY — It’s time for local children to have fun in the water while learning valuable life-saving skills when participating in the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA’s free 36th annual water safety program June 6-10.
Many participants and volunteers return year after year in the program formerly known as “Splash” to learn and teach life saving skills to little ones who will be in and around water this summer.
The program is presented free of charge to all area children, regardless of YMCA membership, and is sponsored by the Sidney Daily News, in cooperation with Minster Bank and Ruese Insurance.
Children ages 3-5, who have not completed kindergarten, are welcome, but must be accompanied by a parent in the water.
YMCA Aquatics Director Michelle Spalding said the YMCA staff and volunteers plan to work hard on teaching children the rescue technique “reach, or throw, don’t go,” which means to not jump into the water to help someone in trouble, but instead reach or throw something to them to help.
As with past years, through out the week children will be taught the “starfish” technique, which teaches youngsters how to float if they are suddenly in a life threatening situation. The program is geared to help children relax and not tense up from fear so they will float.
Samantha Lockard, of Sidney, is looking forward to volunteering again for the second year. She is passionate about helping children learn to be safe around water but said they can have fun at the same time.
“I am the assistant pastor at the Salvation Army, and I have 15 years of aquatics experience, and so when I moved here and heard about Water Safety Week, I said, ‘Oh this is something I need to be involved in,’” Lockard recalled.
“It is important that they know and understand how to be safe around water and Water Safety Week not only provides that, but they make it fun while doing it. So, a lot of instructors will be in the pool demonstrating things that they need to learn about water safety, and then the kids get to practice it themselves,” Lockard said. “They’ll get see the instructors pretending to struggle in the water and their friends come over and hand them a noodle and help them out. So, the kids are not only learning how to be safe in the water, but are having fun while they do it, and honestly that’s the best way to teach kids to let them have fun. … And then also, they get swim lessons on top of that. It’s not just that we are going to learn to be safe in the water, but also teach them the practical lessons that they need as well, based on their ability level.”
This years’s theme is “We don’t talk about Bruno … We talk about WATER SAFETY!” Each day through out the week children will learn one of the core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. Throughout the week, children and parents will notice the theme and their colored core values decorate the walls in the pool and commonly traveled areas. Also one day during the week members of the Sidney Fire Department come to speak about how to be safe near water.
Tammy Lawson, of Sidney, who is a YMCA lifeguard and swim instructor, said this will be her seventh or eighth year working as a staff member with the water safety program. She has been heavily involved for the past four to five years, and aquatics and teaching children how to be safe around water is very important to her. She is looking forward to working with the other volunteers and lifeguards to help direct attendees this year. Typically around 300-400 students participate in the annual program.
“I initially started (with the program) as a staff member, and as I was new to the community, had never heard of this type of event before; however, when it was presented to me that this was an event that happened and was done in the community, I recognized the value of it very early on.,” Lawson said, who is life-long swimmer and whose parents made swim lessons and water safety a priority. “Just being around water from a very young age, I know the importance of teaching kids the safety, and the fun you can have in water, but also making them aware it can be dangerous and they need to pay attention when they choose to go swimming and play in water. To me, it’s very important ”
Spalding encourages parents of young children to join the free program that is open to the public. Parents do not need to be YMCA members for their children to participate, she noted thanks to the community coming together to make water safety a priority for children.
The YMCA pledges to keep kids safe around water and claims to be the first to develop a group swimming instruction program in 1906. Aside from its annual water safety program, through swim lessons, the YMCA teaches over a million children each year “invaluable water safety and swimming skills.”
The YMCA reports three children die every day from drowning as it is the second leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-14.
“Teaching children how to be safe around water is not a luxury; it is a necessity,” says the YMCA’s website. “Seventy-one percent of the world is water; children are 100 percent curious.”
Earlier registration is best, Spalding said, but no one will be turned away. Those interested in signing up at the last minute will still be able to register during the week of water safety week. The YMCA is still seeking more volunteers to help with the four day program. For more information about registering or volunteering, contact the YMCA at 937-492-9134.