SIDNEY — It’s time for local children to have fun in the water while learning valuable life-saving skills when participating in the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA’s free annual water safety program June 5-8.
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.”
Sidney resident Andrea Stewart plans to enroll her two daughters along side typically 400 other students this June. Stewart said her family is around water a lot because they are on a boat at the lake most weekends and also because her in-laws have a pool. She signed them up so they know how to survive in case of an accident.
“I want them to know that they can help themselves. I’m always going to be right there, but so they are not scared if something does happen, like if they were to fall out (of the boat) or off the dock or something. Because you never know, and you are around water so much,” Stewart said.
YMCA Aquatics and Youth Coordinator Jessica Elliot said through out the week children are taught the “starfish” technique, which teaches youngsters how to float if they were suddenly in a life threatening situation. She said she has noticed there are more older children that do not know how to swim. She said the older children get, the more aware they are of fear, which causes your body tense up like a rock and sink. The program’s goal is to help children relax so they will float.
Stewart’s oldest daughter Ava, 8, has participated in the water safety week for the last three years, and really liked it last year. She said this will be the first year for 5-year-old Maddyn in the program. Both girls have taken swim lessons all this year and now swimming is Ava’s favorite thing to do. Stewart said Ava is also looking forward to the week of fun with all of the other children, as she is very social.
Steward said Maddyn did so well with swim lessons at the YMCA, she was given the OK by Elliot to participate at the 6-year-old level, which doesn’t require a parent in the water. Typically, children ages 3-5 are welcome to enroll in the water safety week if accompanied by a parent in the pool to receive instruction.
“I think it’s important for all kids to (learn to) swim, because you never know where they are going to be — on a field trip, playing at park by a pond; you just never know and can’t always be right beside them,” Stewart said.
Elliot hopes the program will encourage other children to also take swim lessons. She said financial assistance is available for swim lessons through grants at the YMCA. She emphasized help is available because the YMCA’s goal is to build a healthy spirit, mind and body. She also said during water safety week, they work to incorporate the YMCA’s values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.
Dennis Boggs, of Anna, said his son Mathis, 8, has participated in the water safety program for a few years now. He said they have a pond and wanted to get Mathis used to the water.
“He’ll practice and put his head back … Since the first time (of classes) — because before he wouldn’t lay his head back. He will relax more (now), practice and do (what they do during the classes), Boggs said.
“I can go every day to swim,” Mathis said about looking forward to the week in the pool. “It’s fun.”
Elliot encourages parents for their children to attend the all four days of classes. She said sometimes the first day may seem a little chaotic and not go as smooth as the other three days of classes. She likened it to the first day of school when everyone is figuring out the routine, where they go and are becoming acquainted with one another. But she made a point of saying the week’s success is due in great part to her valued instructors.
The YMCA pledges to keep kids safe around water and claims to be the first to develop a group swimming instruction program in 1906. Aside from its annual water safety program, through swim lessons, the YMCA teaches 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 Fricker’s, is sponsoring the 31th 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.