1St graders learn ABCs of water safety at annual event

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MESA, Ariz. -- It’s the official kick-off to swimming season in the Valley.

On Tuesday, more than 1,000 1st graders attended the 13th Annual Water Safety Day at Mesa Community College. The event was put on by Water Watchers at Phoenix Children’s Hospital with the support of several fire departments, volunteers and businesses.

The goal of the event was to teach children the importance of water safety. Child drownings are a big problem in Valley, and officials want to stop the preventable deaths. Last year, 17 children drowned in the valley. That number is down from 2010, which saw 20 drownings.

Water Watchers, a non-profit organization, continues to bring awareness and education about child drownings through direct children’s education, community educational efforts, media efforts and support of other drowning-prevention groups.

Water Watchers was started by Druann Letter whose son died in 1998. Baby Weston drowned in his family’s swimming pool while both of the parents were at home.

"We thought we had everything covered, but we didn't. We didn't watch him with eye-to-eye contact and that's one of the most important layers of ... water safety," she said.

Trying to pull something positive from her family's tragedy, Letter began Water Watchers because she said the drowning is a killer that knows no boundaries and a little bit of knowledge can keep families from going through what her family has experienced.

Letter also wants people to understand that drowning often steals kids silently. Children can slip under the water with little or no splashing sounds and they often do not have the chance to cry or yell for help.

Child-safety experts and Water Watchers stress the importance of what they call the ABCs of water safety, with adult supervision being the most important. There’s nothing that can substitute for eyes-on contact with children, especially in situations that can quickly turn tragic.

A - Adult supervision
When it comes to keeping kids safe around water, the most important thing is adult supervision. Adults should have eye-to-eye contact with kids at all times.

B - Barriers
While there is no substitute for adult supervision, fences and locking gates can go a long way in keeping kids out of the swimming pool.

C - Classes
Not only should children take swimming lessons (although lessons in no way replace supervision), adults should be trained in CPR in case the unthinkable should happen.

To learn more about the Phoenix Children's Water Watchers program, call 602-546-1712 or visit PhoenixChildrens.com.