SIDNEY — Over 300 children took part in the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA’ s 33rd annual water safety program this week, where they learned valuable life-saving skills in the water.
The program, which was formerly known as “Splash,” was presented free of charge to all area children, regardless of YMCA membership, and was sponsored by the Sidney Daily News, in cooperation with Minster Bank, Ruese Insurance and Fricker’s.
The theme for this year’s event was “Small Foot, Big Splash!”
The YMCA aquatics staff’s goal was for attendees to learn to float in the “starfish” pose, which is a safe resting position in the water. They hope each child left with the life-saving technique.
YMCA Aquatics and Youth Coordinator Sonia Jaziri said they had a greater turn-out of participants with several new faces attending this year.
“The week went really well. They did really good; had a lot of fun,” said Jaziri. “As parents walked out, they said ‘thank you’ and that (their children) ‘had a lot of fun.’ One parent said, ‘my kid woke up about 8 a.m. and said, where is my swim suit? I need to go to the Y!’ She told me they were so excited.”
The Sidney Fire Department was also on hand this year to talk with participants kindergarten through sixth grade about being safe around high, river or flood waters. On Thursday, during the last day of classes, Assistant Chief Dallas Davis, Lt. Jason Truesdale and Firefighter Collin Habel showed children the purpose of the department’s water rescue gear and re-enacted a water rescue in the pool. Truesdale explained to the young participants the dangers of playing in or near flooded water or high, rushing river water. The children intently listened and watched the firefighters’ demonstration.
Volunteer Logan Frasure, 16, of Sidney, daughter of J.T. and Shelly Frasure, said the children had fun and seemed excited to participate in the program. Frasure, a four-year program volunteer and member of the YMCA swim team and Leader Club, helps wherever needed during the week and takes attendance before each class.
“This is water safety week, not lessons. Since it’s safety week, they learn how to be safe in the water,” Frasure said when explaining the importance of the week. She recommends all children attend. “My cousin took it this year.“
Sherry Dearth, the Sidney mother of three young participants, Ariella, 6, Adelaide, 8, and Amelia, 4, said her children would “wake up every day so excited to go” to Splash. Ariella, Dearth said, only was able to attend one of the four days after getting stitches from a leg injury. Her mother said she was still enthusiastic to come and watch her sisters participate.
“I thought I was the first one that could swim” of the others in her water safety class, Ariella said. “Making new friends” was her favorite part.
“I think this is such a great program,” Dearth said. “I love how they do it in the beginning of the year, too. To where the kids are just beginning to get into swimming (for the summer). And they have it in the beginning (of summer) instead of the middle of the (season).”
Children ages 3 to 5 had to be accompanied by a parent in the water for instruction. Dearth said her four-year-old, Amelia, learned to swim during the week. This was the first year each of she and husband Jeremy’s girls attended the program.
“Adelaide, my oldest — she’s eight — has done so good, they asked her to be on swim team. So we are going to start in some swim lessons. They asked if she wanted to do some classes and eventually will do some competitive stuff,” Dearth said proudly.
Jaziri said she hopes parents take the next step to sign their children up for swim lessons as a result of the week. The YMCA offers private, one-on-one; semi-private, of two or more; and group swim lessons.
“We are more focused (water safety week) on teaching kids to be safe around the water. Safety, safety, safety. Swim lessons I think is a good investment because you are giving your child a lifesaving skill,” Jaziri said.”Each kid is different. And the sooner you get your kids to learn to swim the better (it will be to learn). The goal is to get them comfortable to learn, which could save their life.”
Financial assistance for swim lessons is available this year at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA, Jaziri said. Lessons at the YMCA are available since the Sidney pool is not offering free swim lessons this summer due to a lifeguard shortage.
“Our mission (at the YMCA) is to impact people’s life in the community. And from the Aquatics Department, it is to prevent drowning,” Jaziri said. “And as for the volunteers, they have fun, make friends and learn how to be responsible and give back to the community. Because (the young people) are the future of our community.
For information about swim lessons at the YMCA and financial assistance, call 937-492-9134.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.