SIDNEY — Approximately 250 children took part in Sidney-Shelby County YMCA’ s 35th annual water safety program this week, where they learned valuable life-saving skills in the water.
The program, 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.
This years’s theme, from the Disney movie Moana, is “Hei Hei: Be prepared.”
The YMCA aquatics staff’s goal was for attendees to be safe around water and learn to float in the “starfish” pose, which is a safe resting position in the water. The hope is for each child left with the life-saving technique.
YMCA Aquatics and Youth Coordinator Sonia Jaziri said they had a great turn-out of participants, with a huge waiting list this year. Because COVID-19 health regulations were not lifted until right before the program began, the number of participants were limited.
“The week went really well. They had a lot of fun,” said Jaziri. “We aimed to get the kids more comfortable around water and to know not to be around water without an adult present.”
The Sidney Fire Department came on Wednesday to talk with children kindergarten through sixth grade about being safe around high, river or flood waters.
Assistant Chief Dallas Davis said they returned again this year to communicate the dangers of playing in or near flooded water or high, rushing river water, to reinforce the importance of a life-jacket and to explain what to do if they fall into water. His son, Dalton Davis, 13, demonstrated for children how to react and what do if they were to fall into a pool or other body of water.
Andrea Vrquiza said her two children, Zoey, 8, and Dexter Lohrber, 6, of Sidney, had fun and were excited to participate in the program.
“They very excited and have been talking about this for weeks,” Vrquiza said.
Seven-year-old Annabelle Braun, daughter of Alexis and Riley Braun, of Sidney, couldn’t wait for class each day, her mom said.
“Annabelle wanted to go to bed early last night so she could wake up sooner to come swimming,” Braun said with a laugh, recalling it was only 7 p.m. when Annabelle wanted to go to sleep.
Rosewood resident Angela Moore expressed gratitude the water safety week program went back to normal in the pool again this year after missing out last year. Her two children, Ava Terrell, 7, and Boone Terrell, 6, whom are also the children of Corby Terrell, loved the program.
“Ava loves everything about it; Boone is a little more shy,” Moore said. “We have a creek behind our home and it makes me nervous, even though there is not much water in it. So, we need to be knowing what we are doing (about water safety) and learning to swim.”
“He liked the torpedo! And I liked swimming with the noodle,” Ava said after her session ended.
“And I liked doing ice cream scoops (swim technique) and blowing bubbles,” Boone said with a big smile.
Moore plans to enroll her children in swim classes now that the program has ended.
Children ages 3 to 5 had to be accompanied by a parent in the water for instruction. The other children were led by the 33 volunteers who helped Jaziri make the program a success. And at the end of day four, the Y provided a pizza party for volunteers and staff who helped with water safety week.
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 on teaching kids to be safe around the water. Swim lessons I think is a good investment for the parent and for the child 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. The goal is to get them comfortable to learn, which could save their life.”
For information about swim lessons at the YMCA and financial assistance, call 937-492-9134.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.