Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

50 Children Pick Up Safety Tips from Volunteer Lifeguards

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

50 Children Pick Up Safety Tips from Volunteer Lifeguards

Article excerpt

Byline: CAREN BURMEISTER

JACKSONVILLE BEACH - About 50 children cooled off, breathed underwater with SCUBA equipment and learned safety tips in a recent water safety program that volunteer lifeguards hosted at the Carver Recreational Center.

The program got underway May 17 after Jacksonville Beach firefighters filled the 4-foot deep, 15-foot diameter inflatable pool on the center's basketball courts.

The youngest children quickly overcame their fear as older siblings and lifeguards Inna Gudiyev, Patrick Nichols, Matt Duffy, Eric Bohn and Justin Sempsrott showed them how to keep the water out of their eyes, nose and mouth. Lifeguards brought SCUBA diving apparatus so the children could experience the novelty of breathing underwater.

Most of them had never seen SCUBA equipment except on television, said Carver Recreational Center Supervisor Latoya Thomas.

"It was just a blast," Thomas said. "The kids really enjoyed it."

The water play was followed by a hotdog cookout where lifeguards shared water safety tips like don't swim alone, only swim near the lifeguard chair and never go into the water to rescue someone. They also urged parents to adopt the water watcher tag system, in which a designated adult wears a tag around his or her neck making them responsible for a particular child in the water.

While the inflatable pool is small, it gives the children the feeling of being in the water, said Steve Park, a board member and former lifeguard with the American Red Cross Life Saving Corp. Once they got in the pool, worked with the SCUBA gear from Park's dive shop and went underwater they weren't afraid anymore, he said.

The program is part of Beyond the Beach, a water safety training effort for children that emphasizes that the whole community shares a stake in the welfare of children around the water. The program will return to the Carver Center on June 14 and plans to continue there once a month.

Beyond the Beach expands the lifesaving corps' mission to community centers and pools throughout Jacksonville. In particular, it targets underprivileged children who don't have access to a pool or who may encounter a pool without parental supervision. …

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