SIDNEY – The Sidney Daily News, in cooperation with Minster Bank, Ruese Insurance and Frickers, will sponsor the 31th annual Water Safety Program, previously known as Splash, for all local children June 5-8 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 31 years, the Sidney Daily News has been a major sponsor.
Registration is required for the program. Registration begins Monday, May 8, with forms available at area schools 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 “Find your happy place. Troll in and Swim.”
Typically, between 300 to 400 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. 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 and Youth Coordinator Jessica Elliot said a goal of the program is for children to leave with the “starfish” technique, which is floating on your back.
“We want water to be enjoyable, but want them to be aware of the potential risk of being near and in water also,” Elliot said. “We will be doing lots and lots of the starfish.”
Children 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.
The program originally began as the need arose to teach basic safety skills after a child drowned 30 years ago. Elliot said many participants have had no swim lessons prior to the first day of water safety classes, but they do have many repeat attendees each year.
“I’ve noticed there are more older children that do not know how to swim. The older they get, the more aware they are of fear,” said Elliott.
She said when you create fear, your body tends to tense up like a rock and will sink. The goal is to help children relax so they will float.
Even though instructors stress never be near or get into the water when alone, the program intends to make children more comfortable with water and get them excited to become swimmers. Elliot said hopefully this introduction to water will result in more children taking swim lessons and possibly future swim team members.
Each day throughout the week attendees learn a value with the hope to of instilling the YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. At the end of each class, each child gets 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. At the end of the week, each participant will receive a certificate of completion.
One change to the class schedule from years past, which is due to a general lack of participants, is the elimination of evening class time 7:45 to 8:30 p.m. It will be replaced with a class from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m.
Most years the water safety program has plenty of repeat volunteers, however this year Elliot is still looking for additional volunteers. She asked those interested, who are at least 10-years old, to come into the YMCA and fill out a volunteer form. Volunteers are not required to be present each day of class; she will work around people’s schedules.
A volunteer meeting is set for June 1, when the flow of the week will be discussed, and schedules and volunteers’ T-shirts will be handed out. Then at the end of the week, the YMCA will host a pizza party for volunteers.
“The Sidney Daily News is excited to again be part of the YMCA’s Water Safety Program,” said Natalie Buzzard, general manager and advertising director of the Sidney Daily News. “The collaborative efforts between Sidney’s daily newspaper, Minster Bank, Ruese Insurance, and Frickers will provide local children the opportunity to gain life-saving safety skills when in or around water.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.