SIDNEY – It’s time for local children to have fun in the water while learning valuable life-saving skills while they participate in the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA’s free annual water safety program June 6-9.
Many participants and volunteers return year after year to join in sharpening and guiding the skills of little ones in and around the water in the program that is formerly known as “Splash.”
Mandi Wilt and her two young daughters plan to enroll along side typically 400 other students this June. Wilt said her family is around water a lot because they own a boat and it is important that her girls know how to survive in case of an accident.
“Splash teaches them to not only be comfortable around the water, but also gives them the tools in case something would happen,” said Wilt. “Its a great program and I would recommend it to anyone.”
Wilt’s oldest daughter Kayley has participated for the last two years with her mother Mandi in the water with her working as her instructor, as do all parents of children ages 3-5, but this year Kayley will be six and will join a group lead by one of the volunteers for the first time.
“She was just excited to get into the water, but Jessica (Elliot, YMCA aquatics and youth coordinator) and her staff puts on a very well organized program with great timing and age appropriate instructions,” Wilt said of she and Kayley’s impression of the program.
Wilt said Kayley is very comfortable in the water, having “no fear” right off-the-bat, and believes she will adjust fine to working with a new instructor in a group among other 6-year-olds. However, this will be the first year in the program for her youngest daughter Jordyn, who is just turning three and only starting to get comfortable with the water. Unlike Kayley, Jordyn is a bit more apprehensive, so Wilt hopes the water safety week will help.
Throughout the week, children are taught the “starfish” technique, which teaches youngsters how to float if they were suddenly in a life threatening situation. Elliot hopes the program will also encourage swim lessons.
“We teach the stroke technique, but would like to draw in more people for swim lessons. Prior to the week of classes, about 80 percent of the kids have had no previous swim lessons,” said Elliot. “Other than the walking away with the ‘starfish,’ the number one thing we are trying to implement is the position of the head — keeping their mouths out of the water.”
Elliot recalled a story of a little boy, and previous Splash participant, who she saw running around the city pool without a parent close by. She stopped him, and during their conversation asked him what important thing did they learn in Splash. She said he immediately answered, “to never be alone near the water.” Elliot said that it was reassuring he remembered their class instructions, but then directed him to go be closer to his parent.
Chad McClain, one of the YMCA’s swim team coaches and a 21-year returning volunteer, said its great for the program to be held at the beginning of the summer. The program is about water safety, but with so many opportunities to be near water at the pool, or beach everyone should really know how to swim.
“Splash is a great program that has brought in kids for progressive swim lessons. I always say that 75 percent of the earth is covered in water, so every kid should know how to swim, and if not how to swim, definitely know some basic safety principles around water, and that’s what they teach in that program. They teach, if someone is thrown into the water from a deck, what to do,” said McClain.
The YMCA pledges to keep kids safe around water, coining themselves as “America’s swim instructor,” because aside from this water safety program, through swim lessons they teach 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.”
The Sidney Daily News, in cooperation with Minster Bank, Ruese Insurance and Frickers, is sponsoring the 30th annual Water Safety program.
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.