Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.
Florida is a state surrounded by water, and home swimming pools are prevalent. So it comes as no surprise that it holds the unfortunate distinction of having the most child drownings in the United States and ranks sixth in the nation for drownings in all age groups.
For one business leader, the heartbreak of child drowning has hit close to home more than once. Over the past 10 years, Tom McMahon, President and General Manager of Milner, Inc., a business technology and workflow solutions company, has seen his company’s employees lose three children and two adults to drownings. In one particularly tragic incident, two children from the same family died when a brother tried to save his younger sibling.
To help prevent future drowning tragedies, Milner, Inc. recently pledged $30,000 to the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. The YMCA has a long history of helping Tampa Bay residents stay water safe, and is particularly focused on the topic during May, which is Safety Around Water Month. With memorial weekend on the horizon and people flocking to the water to enjoy the holiday together, water safety awareness is even more critical.
The YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg not only raises awareness of the high number of preventable drownings in Florida but also offers water safety education and swim lessons. Studies have shown that participating in formal swim lessons cuts the incidence of drowning among children ages one to four by 88 percent.
The financial contribution from Milner, Inc. will help offset the cost of swim lessons to YMCA summer campers and help support free water safety and swim lessons to others in the St. Petersburg community.
David W. Jezek, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg, notes that water safety became especially critical during the pandemic, as families spent more time at home and outdoors around pools and other bodies of water. “Drowning deaths are 100% preventable and here at the Y, we have an obligation to ensure that parents have access to water safety and swim lessons.”
Although most drownings involve young children, as evident from Milner’s experience, water safety is just as important for adults. The YMCA offers adult swim lessons, too. “Learning how to swim as an adult can be daunting. Swimming skills are essential to know at any age, especially here in Florida. You’re never too old to learn,” Jezek says.
The YMCA also encourages the Tampa Bay community to practice water safety tips, such as: never swim alone, supervise children near any form of water (pools, lakes, baths), and don’t engage in prolonged breath-holding activities – even if it seems like an innocent game.
Find more information about the YMCA’s Swim Lessons here.