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 33rd annual water safety program June 3-6.
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.
Bethany Kirkpatrick, of Houston, said this is the third year her seven-year-old son Ezra will participate in the program. Also, one of she and husband Rusty’s two young foster children, a four-year-old girl, will attend for the first time. Both children are very excited for the water safety week to begin, she said.
Children ages 3-5, who have not completed kindergarten, are welcome, but must be accompanied by a parent in the water.
Kirkpatrick spoke about the two children who drowned in Shelby and Darke Counties within the last several years, and noted it is a reminder of the importance for her children to learn water safety and be able to survive in case of an accident.
“We have a pond behind our house and that’s why it is very important and significant for our family. And then we go to the lake, and I think it’s important to have that safety (instilled). And (the program) is for three years old and up, so I think it’s important for families to know,” Kirkpatrick said. “Ezra does swimming lessons anyway, but this is even a little different because they do a lot of the safety (instruction) where (the children) help other people get out of the water. It is a really cool program. It’s fun.”
Kirkpatrick said Ezra loves to be in the water and has spoke many times about Splash. It is like a summer camp event for him, she said with a chuckle.
“It’s very important if they can float on their back and can at least wait until someone can help. And (YMCA Aquatics and Youth Coordinator Sonia Jaziri) does a great job, and Jessica before her too,” Kirkpatrick said. “(The instructors are) very good. We absolutely love it. It’s a great program for our kids and many other kids to get to participate.”
Splash volunteer and YMCA member Joe Clark is returning for the seventh year in a row to help with the classes. He is looking forward to working with the other volunteers and lifeguards to help direct attendees this June. Typically around 300-400 students participate in the annual program.
“I enjoy helping out. I participate in a water class; they know me. And the lifeguards asked if I mind (to volunteer) for it, ” Clark said. “I get a kick of (volunteering). One year I even dressed up as Obi-Wan, the Star Wars character.”
This year’s theme is “Small Foot, Big Splash.” 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.
“It’s fun. The whole point is for the kids to have fun while learning about water safety. It’s a good, safe, controlled environment. The kids are under constant supervision by the lifeguards, volunteers and staff outside of the pool,” Clark said.
Jaziri encourages parents of young children to join the free program that is open to the public. She said parents do not need to be YMCA members for their children to participate.
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.
“They will be having fun while learning in the pool,” she said. “We will be teaching them to perform a specific set of water safety skills over those four days: swim, float swim, which is known as starfish. They will learn to float on their back.”
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.”
Registration will remain open during the week of water safety week. For more information, contact the YMCA at 937-492-9134.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.