Sanibel Recreation has received a grant in the amount of $16,060 to start up the "Sanibel Swims" program on Sanibel and Captiva.
This is a special grant, funded by the Charitable Foundation of the Islands, to start an educational collaboration between Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida and Sanibel Recreation Center to teach water safety at every level and every age - from toddlers to grandparents and extended families of toddlers and young children on Sanibel and Captiva -on how to be and stay safe in the water. It teaches basic floating skills for toddlers to compression CPR to save a life.
According to the Lee Memorial Hospital, this program will provide swim lessons to 85 after-school children and 100 summer camp children. In addition to these lessons, children will receive booklets on water safety and a program T-shirt. If children do not have or forget their swimsuits, goggles and/or towels on swim days, the Rec. Center will have them available on site.
CAROL ORR HARTMAN
Receiving the start-up grant for Sanibel Swims program, from left, are Bob Berendt (Charitable Foundation of the Islands chair), Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane, Liddy Johnson (Charitable Foundation of the Islands), S. Albert Hanser (founder Charitable Foundation of the Islands), Michele King (manager Child Advocacy Program for Lee Memorial Health System), Susan Mitchell (director of grants for Lee Memorial Health System Foundation), Dr. Steven Brown (Lee Memorial Hospital board), Natalya Maddix (aquatics supervisor), Ginny Fleming (Charitable Foundation of the Islands & Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida board president) and Amanda Dusick (senior lifeguard).
Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida will provide outreach and education to day care providers on the island and provide vouchers for day care children to obtain swim lessons at the Rec. Center as well as outreach to the parents of day care students to advise them of the program. In addition, there will be local outreach through local media, newspapers and places where island residents frequent to reach people like grandparents, who may not be aware of the drowning prevention message and services available.
The initial budget of $16,060 will implement Sanibel Swims through the 2012?2013 school year and 2013 summer to an estimated 215 children.
Andrea Miller (recreational director and former aquatics director for Sanibel Recreation Center) has a degree in physical education. She has been involved in aquatics for many years and is passionate about water safety, especially in this area with the number of canals, pools and waterfront homes or close proximity.
"We are very excited about the Recreational Center receiving this grant," said Miller. "The Sanibel Swims grant will allow integration of all attendees of the Sanibel Recreation Center after-school program and summer recreation program of swimming lessons and water safety.
"The process fell into place I was contacted by Lee Memorial to see what we could provide at our facility with our level of staffing," Miller continued. "As of last month there were 35 drownings in Lee County this year and they were all under the age of 5. We had a toddler drown on Sanibel a few months ago, so there was a big push to get this done on Sanibel. We put together a proposal on how we would utilize it, the hospital felt our proposal would be very effective and we have had tremendous support from the local community. Lee Memorial grant writers approached two hospital board members who felt that this would be a viable thing on Sanibel with the recent drowning and with the huge community support of Sanibel Rec."
Key aspects of the grant will cover the following components:
The most important component is that each grade will have age appropriate skills. Younger children will be taught to float and what to do if they fall in. Older children will learn basic lifesaving techniques, such as compression CPR.
A second component is more interaction with parents and grandparents on water safety education. Community CPR classes at no charge will be offered to the general public. This is a one-hour course offered each month.
Thirdly, once a month on Sunday afternoons, there will be a class offered with the "Whales Tales" movie, which is the official American Red Cross water safety program geared to elementary and younger children and will be open to the public at no charge.
A fourth component is that Sanibel Rec. will work with the Golisano Children's Hospital and Lee Memorial to send educators to the island preschools to do water safety and drowning prevention and hand swim vouchers to school age children to have free swimming lessons. The toddler course is called "Baby Bubblers" with the instructor teaching the parent and child swimming skills and safety. The "Little Skippers" program provides swim lessons for ages 4-5.
The last component is for older kids. Sanibel Rec. utilizes the American Red Cross swim standards. When children turn 6 they can start with the graduated levels of American Red Cross swim lessons.
"There have been 70 kids in the pediatric intensive care this year from drowning or near drowing," said Miller. "That is too many."
"The Charitable Foundation of the Islands addresses people in need," said Lee Memorial Health System board member and Sanibel resident Dr. Steven Brown. "We feel that with so much water on our island that we need to get all kids swimming, teach them to have respect for the water, get over their fear of the water and educate them on what they need to do to keep themselves safe. Kids are the most important future of our country and Sanibel. What is the price of one child's life? Toddler drowning is the number one cause of death for ages 5 and under in our community. Lee County has the third-highest in the state of toddler drowning. We have had seven drownings in our pediatric unit and 10 times that many near drownings of children in intensive care this year.
"There is a vital need in Captiva and Sanibel, especially with our one tragic incident this year of a toddler drowning on Sanibel," Brown added. "Within 30 seconds of being under water and inhaling water, brain damage can occur so prevention at the earliest level is crucial. If this is successful on Sanibel, we plan to introduce it to the other communities and get every child throughout Lee County educated. Our goal is to get our drownings and near drownings of toddlers to zero."
S. Albert Hanser, founder and board member of Charitable Foundation of the Islands and a Sanibel resident, says the Charitable Foundation of the Islands focuses on and contributes to those in need.
"This could be a person or organization that is in crisis," said Hanser. "In this case, we think that the children are the future of the island and country and if we can save one life through this program, we think that this is a need that justifies this support of our organization in this grant to Sanibel Recreation Center."