SIDNEY – The Sidney Daily News, in cooperation with Minster Bank and Ruese Insurance, will sponsor the 36th annual Water Safety Program, previously known as Splash, for all local children June 6-9 at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA, 300 Parkwood St.
The four day program is free of charge to children who are at least 3-years-old up to the sixth-grade, with costs incurred by the sponsors. For the past 36 years, the Sidney Daily News has been a major sponsor.
Registration is required for the program. Registration has begun and will continue through Friday, June 3, with forms available at area schools, the YMCA and the Sidney Daily News. Participants may choose their desired class time, but sessions will be assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. Families need not be members of the YMCA to register.
This years’s theme is “We don’t talk about Bruno … We talk about WATER SAFETY!”
Annually, several hundred children attend the 45 minute annual program to learn the basics of pool safety, backyard pool safety, boating safety, beach safety, and basic swimming and rescue skills from volunteer instructors and YMCA staff members. Attendees will learn how to save themselves, as well as safety tactics to help a friend without having to jump into the water. And aside from water safety, they are also taught the stroke technique and the importance of skin care.
Children ages 3-5, who have not completed Kindergarten, are welcome to enroll, but must be accompanied by a parent in the water.
YMCA Aquatics Director Michelle Spalding said goals of the program are for children to leave with the “starfish” technique, which is floating on your back, and understand to not automatically jump in the water to help someone in trouble, but instead reach or throw something to them to help.
“We will work on rescue techniques, so if you happen to fall into a pool in the deep end, and you are not the greatest of swimmer and you can’t get to the wall, we work on getting into your rescue position, the starfish, which is floating on your back,” Spalding said. “Sometimes parents don’t understand, even in swim lessons, why we focus so much on our starfish, which is the rescue position — we just call it a starfish for the cute name for the kids — and it’s because right now they are with me or may be with you, but what happens if they fall in and can’t get to the side.”
Participants will start out of the pool to learn the importance of the “reach, or throw, don’t go” technique, Spalding said.
“We are going to work on that a lot, our reach, throw, don’t go. As a parent, my first instinct would be to jump in the water, and probably if you see someone in trouble any other kid would probably do the same thing. So that is our main thing, is to reach or throw, don’t go — don’t jump in. We really work on that hard. I think in previous years, and we are going to continue (this year) is to work on dry land first. They will get in the pool, but we are going to work on reach, throw, don’t go first, and then get them into the pool and have them practice it.”
The program originally began as the need arose to teach basic safety skills after a child drowned over 30 years ago. Many participants have had no swim lessons prior to the first day of water safety classes, but there are many repeat attendees each year.
As with years past, Spalding hopes members of the Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services will be present on one of the days to talk about water safety.
Each day throughout the week attendees learn one of the YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. At the end of each class, each child will receive a piece of paper with the program’s theme and value tied together and are asked to color the picture a certain color they have exhibited that day. Their work will then be hung on the YMCA walls when returned. At the end of the week, each participant will receive a certificate of completion.
Spalding said they are still seeking volunteers to help with this year’s program. Those interested should call the YMCA to obtain information about becoming a volunteer at 937-492-9134. Volunteers will receive a free T-shirt and the YMCA will host a pizza party for volunteers at the end of water safety week.
“The Sidney Daily News is excited to be part of the YMCA’s Water Safety program again this year to help provide area children with valuable life saving skills,” said Natalie Buzzard, general manager of the Sidney Daily News and Miami Valley Today. “The paper, along with Minster Bank and Ruese Insurance, is proud to provide local children with the opportunity to participate is this important program that will hopefully help save lives.”