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WaterSmart promotes water safety ahead of swim season

Posted at 7:50 PM, Mar 30, 2017
and last updated 2019-03-26 13:27:29-04

Last year, at least four children in Palm Beach County died from drowning, according to the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County.

While that number has been going down slightly over the last few years, water safety remains a priority, especially here in South Florida.

As we approach swim season, community leaders are taking action to ensure everyone has the opportunity to stay safe.

While it seems obvious, one of the biggest keys to drowning prevention is swim lessons. However, not everyone has access or can afford swim lessons. WaterSmart Palm Beach County and its many organizations are changing that.

For grandmother Shirley Harold, the danger of drowning is a painful reality.

“That was 2008 and it’s been difficult,” she said.

Nearly ten years ago now, her 2-year-old grandson J'mari drowned in the family’s backyard pool.

“I received a phone call from my grandson who said grandma you need to go to Plantation Hospital. I said why what’s wrong,” said Harold.

J’mari didn’t know how to swim. Ever since that tragic day, Harold has joined forces along with so many other local organizations collectively known as WaterSmart of Palm Beach County.

Thanks to some of those organizations like the YMCA and the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County, there will now be more free and reduced swim lessons available to families in need than ever before.

“It’s life saving. It really is,” said Anna Stewart, manager of the Drowning Prevention Coalition in Palm Beach County. 

Families who qualify can use those vouchers at more than 15 different aquatic facilities in the area.

“Regardless of whether you know how to swim or you don’t know how to swim, drowning can happen to you.”

She says on top of swim lesson, awareness and education will help save lives. 

Families can begin applying for the vouchers starting April 1. Those vouchers will be for qualifying children ages 3-12.