HOUSTON – Memorial Day is the start of summer, with pools opening and families hitting the beach. With that comes the sad reality that dozens of children and adults in our area will drown this summer if they don't follow basic swim safety guidelines. The YMCA of Greater Houston is working to eliminate drownings and on Thursday, May 24 will launch the sixth annual YMCA Water Wise campaign, designed to educate the community about drowning prevention.
YMCA Water Wise is a multifaceted awareness program that includes free swim lessons at area apartment communities. Those lessons target low-income, minority children who, studies show, are much less likely to learn to swim than their peers. YMCA Water Wise also includes a traveling speaker's bureau that promotes swim safety, a television and billboard PSA campaign, educational materials in English and Spanish and a website with water safety, CPR and swim lesson information.
The program will officially kick off with a press conference on Thursday, May 24 at 10:30 am.
"Children are our top priority," said Clark Baker, YMCA of Greater Houston president and CEO. "Our Water Wise program teaches kids and their parents how to be safe around any body of water and equips them with life-saving techniques. Our commitment to our families is an essential part of what we do and who we are."
Representatives from the Houston Fire Department, Children's Protective Services, Houston Apartment Association and the YMCA will also speak. Clear Channel Outdoor will unveil the YMCA Water Wise PSA billboards that will be located throughout Houston as part of this awareness campaign.
There is a dire need for water safety education in the greater Houston area. Nine children have drowned in the greater Houston area so far this year, all of which have been under the age of 10. Drowning claims the lives of nearly 3,000 people every year; however, children four years of age and younger have the highest drowning death rate. Most drownings and near-drowning accidents happen when a child falls into a pool or is left alone in the bathtub. Children who survive a near drowning may have brain damage; after four to six minutes under water, the damage is usually irreversible.
The Houston Apartment Association is a key partner in the YMCA Water Wise program and its member properties have provided 5,200 free swim lessons for children at local apartment communities.
"All too often, drowning is the result of a lack of parental supervision or swimming education for children," said HAA President Jenifer Paneral. "In previous years, we've been able to decrease and even eliminate drowning in apartment property swimming pools, so we know educational programs work. I encourage apartment owners and managers to continue to participate in Water Wise to help both parents and children learn how to be safer in and around water."
In addition, through funding from the USA Swimming Foundation, the YMCA of Greater Houston has greatly expanded its reach via YMCA Water Wise. The USA Swimming Foundation supports the sport of swimming from grassroots to gold medals. Through its programs, nearly 50,000 kids have taken swim lessons to date.
WHO: YMCA of Greater Houston, the Houston Apartment Association, Houston Fire Department, Children's Protective Services and others who support drowning prevention and swim safety.
WHAT: A dynamic and visual press event highlighting the YMCA's drowning prevention and awareness program, YMCA Water Wise. A mock drowning will be performed.
WHEN: Thursday, May 24, 10:30 a.m.
WHERE: Remington Park Apartments, 5510 South Rice, Houston, TX 77081
For information on YMCA Water Wise, swim safety tips, swimming lessons, or to find the YMCA nearest you, log on to www.ywaterwise.org.