SIDNEY – The Sidney Daily News, in cooperation with Minster Bank, Ruese Insurance and Frickers, will sponsor the 33th annual Water Safety Program, previously known as Splash, for all local children June 3-6 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 33 years, the Sidney Daily News has been a major sponsor.
Registration is required for the program. Registration is underway, 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 “Small Foot, Big Splash.”
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 Sonia Jaziri confirmed, as with years past, a goal of the program is for children to leave with the “starfish” technique, which is floating on their back.
“What we are going to teach them is how to perform a certain set of skills over those four days, which is to swim, float, swim and is known as the ‘starfish.’ It’s prevention for if they accidentally fall into the water. It’s teaching basic swimming, water safety and water rescue skills,” Jaziri said.
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 also are 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. Jaziri said some children have some swim lessons, but a lot of participants have had no swim lessons prior to the first day of water safety classes. Many attendees repeat the program each year.
In the last few years, she noted that the number of participants have been down, and she wants to get that number back up to the 400 mark.
“I want to get more kids signed up in the program. It’s a free program to anyone in the program. Many people assume their kids are safe because they are always under the supervision of an adult when near the water, but that’s not enough,” Jaziri said. “Eighty-eight percent of kids who drown are under adult supervision. What’s even more chilling is that 60 percent of kids who drown are within 10 feet of safety. All they needed to know was a few skills and they could have survived. Being at the Y, we want to fight those statistics by having this water safety week program.”
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.
As with past years, and all programs at the YMCA, Jaziri said they try instill the YMCA’s core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility during water safety week.
Each day through out the week children will learn one of the core values. 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.
Throughout the week, in the pool and commonly traveled areas of participants during water safety week, children will notice the “Small Foot, Big Splash” theme and their colored core values decorate the walls.
At the end of the week, each participant will receive a certificate of completion and the YMCA hosts a pizza party for the volunteers.
A meeting for volunteers will be held the week prior to water safety week to discuss the flow of the week, schedules and to hand out the volunteers’ T-shirts.
“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 Daily News, Minster Bank, Ruese Insurance and Frickers will provide local children the opportunity to gain life-saving safety skills when around water.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.