SIDNEY — Sidney-Shelby County YMCA’ s 34th annual Water Safety Week reached about 1,000 participants, or more, each day of the four-day program. The program, formerly known as Splash, taught children life-saving water safety information.
This year’s event, aimed at kindergartners through sixth graders, was held virtually on Facebook for safety reasons surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Water Safety Week was presented free of charge to all area children, regardless of YMCA membership. The event was sponsored by the Sidney Daily News, in cooperation with Minster Bank and Ruese Insurance.
Each day participants found short, informative videos that addressed a specific safety topic, along with activities, coloring and writing contests and other informative resources online. The 32 pre-registered participants were entered into a drawing, and three prizes were given away.
YMCA Aquatics and Youth Coordinator Sonia Jaziri said the Y could not truly track the number of children participating virtually but could see the number of views, clicks, reactions, comments and video shares.
“The virtual method is different,” Jaziri said. “It has not been done before and has taken some getting used to. The other aquatic staff members have adapted to it, but some are missing the usual routine and are excited to resume the Water Safety Week next year.”
The YMCA aquatics staff’s main goal was for children to learn to be safe around pools, beaches, lakes, creeks and rivers. One of the goals of the program every year is for children to learn to float in the “starfish” pose, which is a safe, resting position on their back in the water. The life-saving technique was demonstrated in the videos.
Students also learned the importance of obtaining permission before getting into the water and continuously were reminded an adult always should be present. As with past years, and all programs at the Y, the YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility also were integrated into the daily water safety week activities.
The “Reach, Throw, Don’t Go” method of helping a friend who may have fallen in without the child needing to get into the water was taught. “Reach, Throw, Don’t Go” means, do not get in the water, find something like a pool noodle or a stick to reach to a friend to pull them to safety. They also learned about hydration and the importance of skin care with the use of sunscreen.
Paitten Brown, the mother of 5-year-old Raphael, one of the young participants in this year’s virtual program, said her son really enjoyed the videos. This is the first year Raphael, who lives with his mother and father, Josh, in Van Wert, participated in the program. Brown learned about Water Safety Week on Facebook after her mother, a Sidney-Shelby County YMCA employee, re-posted the program’s flyer online.
“I think they did a great job with the videos. I think they handled (this year’s virtual program) very well. The videos were short, sweet and to the point. They were very simple and very clear,” Brown said.
The main thing she thinks Raphael took away from the week was the importance of always having an adult around when near water and to never to get in by himself. She said they repeated those messages over and over. She also liked that they were able to re-watch the videos again and again.
“They kept saying multiple times to always ask a parent first (before getting into the water),” Brown said.
“My family takes water safety very seriously. My grandmother and father both have pools; one an in-ground pool and the other one is above ground. The in-ground pool is just so easy to get into,” Brown said when explaining why it was important for Raphael to participate in Water Safety Week.
The Sidney Fire Department helped again this year to teach young people about being safe at a river or lake. The department explained the danger of playing in or near high water and how to wear a life jacket.
“We did receive some feedback from parents on the virtual Splash course: ‘excellent resources for the kids, especially at the beginning of the summer, very informative and educative,’” Jaziri said by email. “Swim lessons resume in July. However, we are running private swimming lessons currently.”
The YMCA offers private; one-on-one; semi-private, of two or more; and group swim lessons. The Y teaches swim lessons to people of all ages and financial assistance is available.
For information about swim lessons at the YMCA and financial assistance, call 937-492-9134.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.