The Means Report

Making sure you have the tools to hit the water safely

Augusta, GA - (WJBF) - Brad Means: Memorial Day weekend really does mark the unofficial start of summer. We have had drownings in the headlines. Fortunately there's a program underway right here at home and quickly spreading all across the country, that's aimed at keeping kids safe and making sure they have the tools they need to handle themselves in the water.


Here's News Channel 6's Dee Griffin.


- At five years old, Princeton Meadors was a typical, happy little boy who struck a chord both musically and personally with those who knew him best.


- Princeton was a very lively, bubbly child, very energetic. You knew when he came into the room. Talked with anybody, played with anybody, sweet spirit.


- Princeton was not only Michelle's son, but also seven year old Kaden's little brother. If a picture says a thousand words, then photos of Princeton reveal volumes about his personality, smile after smile. Although small in stature, Princeton's mother says his love was big.


- He would say, "Mommy, do you love me?" I would say, "Yes, sweetie, I love you so, so very much."


- Michelle says her love for the boys is strong, but so was the bond that they shared with her deceased husband's parents. Every summer the boys spent time with their grandmother and grandfather in Tennessee. But Michelle says there was always one caveat.


- I told her many times, don't take my children to the pool. They're kids, I don'tthey may beg, they may. But, I know what's safe for my children.


- Last July, that rule was broken, and so was her heart.


- A family friend decided to leave the children in a whirlpool and walk away. And when he walked away he was on his phone. He was on Facebook; there's a videotape that shows everything that happened. And Princeton got out of the whirlpool and went to the main pool, and he slipped in.


- With the grandmother away getting food and the family friend not paying attention, Princeton was underwater for six minutes. His brother and four other young relatives helplessly watched.


- It was a guest at the pool that pulled my child out of the water.


- That day, Princeton became one of the estimated 10 people who die daily due to unintentional drowning. According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the leading cause of death for children in the U.S. Princeton, his brother Kaden, and mother Michelle, are members of the national organization, Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated. Through programming, mother members create opportunity for growth and development. Now that includes a partnership with the American Red Cross to teach water safety to children, as well as train and certify instructors and lifeguards, all in Princeton's memory.


- I am very happy that Jack and Jill of America has decided to develop and implement this initiative with the American Red Cross to try to prevent this from happening to other children.


- The initiative provides free water safety and swim lessons for children in communities across the country. Princeton was a member of the Augusta chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated. Local children jumped at the opportunity to become better acclimated with the water in memory of their friend. As a swim coach, Russ Merrit says continued drownings keep him in motion toward making sure children know how to swim and even take strokes toward higher levels of competency.


- Those of us in the aquatic community just think, if we can prevent one or two, or a few of these deaths, just by putting people in competitive programs or swim lesson programs, then that's well worth it.


- Although drowning silenced Princeton's voice, he's still striking a chord through a new initiative and saving lives.


- I had so many aspirations for him. Based on his little personality, what I knew he could have done. And it's unfortunate that we're not able to see that. But with the Jack and Jill swim initiative, in his honor, he still lives on through that, being able to save other children. And that's important, that's important. That brings me some sense of joy.


Brad Means: Dee Griffin reporting for us today. So let's dig deeper when it comes to water safety, and to help us do that, we have asked Amy McCarter, the aquatics director from the Family Y here in Augusta to come be with us today. Amy, thank you for being here, thanks for what you do to keep everybody safe in the water.


Amy McCarter: Thank you.


Brad Means: Summer's just started; is your pool super busy yet?


Amy McCarter: Well, it was a slow weekend, but we had a lot of people out and right now we are packing.


Brad Means: You know, when I was coming up my parents would drop me off at a swimming pool in town and leave me for the day. A, does that still happen, and B, what has to happen before you can go swimming without mom and dad watching you, if they're at the Family Y?


Amy McCarter: At the Family Y we do not let anyone under the age of 16 be at our facility alone.


Brad Means: Good.


Amy McCarter: There is no time, I think, that you should leave your child unsupervised. I have a 15 year old myself, and at all times he's being watched, at least in the corner of my eye, by me.


Brad Means: Sure, now I have a 15 year old, too, and a 16 year old. Same thing, they're both good swimmers, but you always, you know, are trying to keep track of them. What about the SAW program you have? Safety Around Water. Tell me what a child or a family would go through to get through that course.


Amy McCarter: Safety Around Water is a great course that we offer. We just finished offering our community program. It was free for the entire community in the CSRA. And we do do that every year in May. The other part of our programing that we do is the second grade program. We run with the Richmond County Schools, we bring the students in, and we pay for busing, we pay for the programming, we take care of all of that. We teach them jump, push, turn, grab, which is if you fall in the water. How you jump off the bottom, you push, you turn, and you grab that wall, so you know what to do. We practice that with them. Swim, float, swim, where you're swimming, you get a little tired, you turn, you float on your back. Then, when you're ready, you can swim some more. And the main one that I always teach is to ask permission before entering the water. We want to make sure every child is asking permission from their parent, so that that parent knows, "Hey, my child is in the water now."


Brad Means: How young can we start this? I've seen parents with babies in the swimming pool.


Amy McCarter: Absolutely, we start our swim lesson program at six months and we go all the way up to adult lessons.


Brad Means: Are those infant swim classes beneficial? I know the answer's probably yes, but what are you actually teaching someone that small?


Amy McCarter: Well, we're getting acclimated to the water, so that when they do start that level one programming in our older ages, they're not, they don't have that fear of the water. They feel safe to put their faces in, and it's 88% chance, less chance of drowning with any kind of formal swim lesson programming between the ages of one and four.


Brad Means: What is the apprehension, what is the fear that you've noticed in your career around swimming pools, that some parents have when it comes to even letting their children near a pool? What makes them so scared?


Amy McCarter: I wish I knew the answer to that. A lot of it is just ingrained in them. Some of it is they never took swimming lessons, so they don't trust themselves to be able to help their child if someone, if something happens.


Brad Means: Well, let's address that, the grown ups in the audience who don't know how to swim. What's your approach with them, because they, you probably wouldn't take the same approach that you would with a little child, or maybe you would. How do you handle that with grown ups?


Amy McCarter: We start slowly with the grown ups. We want them to get in, get their toes wet, see that it's safe for them. We keep them in chest-deep water. We work very patiently, so a lot of the times we use the same approaches that we use with the children.


Brad Means: And how long would it take for somebody, an adult, not knowing how to swim, to being just fine in a pool by themselves?


Amy McCarter: I wish I had an answer to that.


Brad Means: It varies?


Amy McCarter: That answer, that question comes up a lot in my phone calls. But it really varies by person, by comfort level, by skill level, and how fast they get acclimated to that water.


Brad Means: Okay, so in an ideal situation, we would take our child, stay with them at the Family Y, let them go through all of the lessons and programs that you have. But what about if we go on vacation? If we're away from Augusta and there's a swimming pool, and there's no lifeguard. How should families handle that?


Amy McCarter: Well, regardless of this, a lifeguard or not, you should always, always, always be watching your children in the pool.


Brad Means: And what would you say to parents who trust their children with other families? You know, that poor lady in the story just then, said that she begged her relatives not to let her kids near a pool. The relative apparently did. I remember when I was raising children, when we were raising small children, and some people would roll their eyes at me when I would say, "Look, I know this is kind of different, "but I know my sons, please follow these guidelines." And they'd say, "I got this." What do you do when your kids are with someone else and you just say, "Hey, please don't let them near a pool unattended," and they do; is there any way to control that? Would you cancel the trip?


Amy McCarter: I wouldn't cancel the trip, but that's where formal education comes into play with your children. Make sure they have those swim lessons, make sure they have those safety skills that they need. Reach and throw, not to go. Always know how to wear a life jacket if necessary, put it on correctly themselves. And give your child the skills they need for life, so that they're safe.


Brad Means: I tell you what, that's great advice. And start them young if you can, but if you miss the start them young part, you can still help the adults.


Amy McCarter: You can always start them.


Brad Means: Amy, thank you so much for being with us, and thanks for trying to keep us all safe.


Amy McCarter: Thank you.


Brad Means: Absolutely. Amy McCarter, Family Y aquatics director. Remember, they have classes for infants to adults. You heard Amy talk about it, go to the website to learn more, or just call them, 706-922-9622. The Family YMCA of Greater Augusta. Superb people and a great part of our community.



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