You have to get your feet wet to learn how to swim. Thanks to the Knights of Pythias Tucson Lodge #9, about 50 youngsters dipped their toes and more last week at the Northwest YMCA.
Last month, the group presented the YMCA with a $1,000 check to provide free swimming lessons.
Kids ranging in ages from 3 to 12 jumped into Splash last week. During their five 30-minute lessons, kids learned about water safety, boating safety, home pool safety, along with basic swimming instructions each day.
"That's the whole goal," said Barb McFarlin, aquatics director at the Northwest YMCA on Shannon Road. "To keep Tucson safe."
From crying and not wanting to get into the water, kids got comfortable blowing bubbles, then learning how to properly choose and put on a life jacket. Within a week, the kids learned and became familiar with water and the safety measures they should take.
The free class came at the beginning of summer and gathered plenty of interest.
"We definitely had to turn people away," McFarlin said. "It filled up very quickly. And I would just love to see other organizations out there who support water safety, and I know there are plenty out there who are able to, fund us for additional programs. We would love to do that."
Some of the adults with the kids watched from the shade.
"This is absolutely wonderful to teach our kids to be water safe," said Rosemary Middleton said. "This sort of thing should be on-going throughout the summer."
Kids are home in the summer, when temperatures rise, trips to pools are more frequent and the danger of drowning is even more present.
Adam Goldberg with Northwest Fire District said the department is trying to stress The "Three S's: Supervision, Security and Safety."
Adult supervision is a must, along with secured barriers, fences and locks around the pool, and making sure people are safe and learn proper CPR.
"It's this time of year when we really start pounding the message," Goldberg said. "Even though it is year-round, this time of year it is so hot and the pool is very inviting to children."
In a release, Northwest Fire reports drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 5 in Arizona.
Drowning has been dubbed the "silent killer" because there is very little sound and often no cry for help. The release said children can possibly slip beneath the surface and never make a splash as they struggle under the water. Almost half of very young drowning victims were last seen in the house, and over two-thirds were not expected to be at or in the pool, yet were found in the water.
The most common victim is a 2-year-old boy.
Late last month in Tucson, there was a near-drowning of a 3-year-old girl in a spa. In a near-drowning, a person is resuscitated but suffers a temporary lack of oxygen, which can leave a person with permanent brain damage or loss of muscle function.
Drownings are preventable. Constant adult supervision for children around water is the most critical factor; drownings can happen in the brief time it takes to answer the phone. According the Northwest Fire, no child, including a child who can swim, should be considered "water-safe."
Pool safety measures
• Have a perimeter pool fence at least 5 feet high, with self-closing and self-latching gates and vertical spacing of no more than 4 inches, constructed so that it cannot be climbed.
• Keep gates closed and locked when the pool is not in use.
• Fences, latches and door locks leading to the pool should be at least 4 1/2 feet above the ground.
• Keep the area around the pool picked up and free of toys and other objects that might attract children.
• Keep life-saving devices near the pool.
• Make sure family members and caregivers, including grandparents, know CPR, water safety rules, and how to get help.
• Designate one person to watch children (inside or outside) when at places with pools.
• If you must leave to answer the phone or attend to a task, remove young children from the pool area and make sure that they cannot return without your knowing it.
Source: Northwest Fire District