Did you know 20 percent of households have children who can’t swim? The American Red Cross launched a new campaign in May to help reduce the drowning rate by 50 percent in 50 cities across the country over the next three to five years. The Red Cross encourages families to make water safety a priority before it’s too late.
“So close to a terrible ending”
For the Cross family, a few hours at the Riverside High School pool each week provides water safety skills for sisters Taylor and Arlena Cross, ages 12 and 11. While their mother Tasha Cross sat on the stadium benches, she shared how important swimming lessons are.
“I don’t want my girls to miss out on life – from pool parties, to trips to a lake. I want them to be safe. Safe, like I’ve never felt,” she explained.
While living in North Carolina a few years earlier, the backyard pool should have been relaxing and peaceful. But instead, Cross said, “I was afraid of the water; we wore life-jackets all the time, even when it was 100 degrees.”
When visiting a Florida resort, the girls were swimming, splashing and having fun in the large pool. They drifted toward the deep end, moving farther and farther away from their parent’s sight. One of the girls went underwater and did not surface. While the other sister tried to help, she was pulled under by the first. Thankfully, a nearby swimmer rescued the girls. The sisters were scared and didn’t tell their parents what happened.
A week later at the annual school physical, the girls complained of ear aches. The doctor explained their type of injury is from rapid submersion. The sisters broke down crying and told of their near-drowning experience.
“We were so close to a terrible ending and I don’t want them to be afraid of the water like their mother,” said Cross.
So each week, they travel to the local high school pool for lessons. Throughout the 8-session course, the girls are growing more confident in the water, swim strokes are turning them into water machines and their initial fear is growing into love of water.
Learn to Swim with the Red Cross
The Cross family is not alone in their traumatic experience. Nearly 50 percent of people reported having an experience where they were afraid they might drown, according to a Red Cross 2014 national survey. That’s why the Red Cross encourages individuals to enroll in age-appropriate water orientation and Learn-to-Swim programs.
Red Cross swimming lessons help people develop skills and water safety behaviors that keep individuals safe when they are in, on and around the water. Take time today to contact your local aquatic facility or park and recreation department and ask for Red Cross swim programs.