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April 30, 2019
Here’s an unwanted distinction: Recent data shows more children drowned in Hillsborough County last year than in any other county in Florida. The number of drownings spiked to 11 in 2018. That’s the highest in the state and more than the previous two years’ numbers combined. That same year, another six children drowned in Pasco County—two more than in 2017. Statewide, the number of child drowning deaths was 88, up 7% from the prior year, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
“Drowning can happen nearly anywhere with standing water,” says G. Scott Goyer, President and CEO of the YMCA of the Suncoast. “As a parent or caregiver, you need to equip your children with the tools they need to be confident in and around water.”
Since data shows formal swim lessons cut the risk of drowning by 88%, the YMCAs of Tampa Bay are offering free Safety Around Water lessons to children throughout the year, thanks to a generous Florida Blue Foundation grant.
“One of the perks of living in Tampa Bay is the abundance of water that surrounds us. From oceans to springs to pools, it’s a part of our life each day,” says David Pizzo, Florida Blue market president for West Florida. “Unfortunately, it can also be extremely hazardous for young children. As part of our mission to help people and communities achieve better health, we’re proud to support the YMCA’s work to equip young children and their families with essential water safety skills.”
The Safety Around Water program is free and open to the entire community, beginners and non-swimmers, ages 3-12 years. During the 4-day course, certified instructors teach kids a sequenced set of skills that will reduce the risk of drowning and give them confidence in and around water. Each 40-minute class includes exercises to help kids adjust to being in the water. Kids learn “Jump, Push, Turn, Grab” and “Swim, Float, Swim,” two skill sets they can use if they unexpectedly find themselves in the water or in an area they cannot touch bottom. Specific safety topics are covered including what to do if you see someone in the water who needs help.
You don’t have to be a YMCA member to participate in the free Safety Around Water program offered across five Y associations, including the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, YMCA of the Suncoast, YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg, Manatee YMCA and Sarasota YMCA. Dates and times vary based on location. Log on to http://www.ymcatampabay.org/find-your-y/ and contact the Y closest to you!
As part of National Water Safety Month, the Y encourages parents to follow these water safety tips: