Story written by Barbara Behling, Communications Officer
For the Cross family, a few hours at the Riverside High School Pool each week provides water safety skills for sisters Taylor (12) and Arlena (11) Cross. While 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, she notes, “I was afraid of the water; we wore life-jackets all the time, even when it was 100°.” At a Florida resorts’ extremely large pool, the girls were swimming, splashing and having fun, while drifting in to the deep end. All the while they were getting farther and farther away from me & my husband. We didn’t even see one go under the water and not surface. When trying to help, the second girl was pulled under by the first. A swimmer close-by pulled them up. They were so scared! They didn’t tell us what happened! At the annual school physical a week later, they complained of ear aches. The doctor explained their type of injury is from rapid submersion. The girls broke down crying. It was then — their near-drowning experience — was heard.
“We were so close to a terrible ending and I don’t want them to be afraid of the water like their mother,” she concluded. So each week, they travel to the Riverside High School pool for lessons. Throughout the 8-session course, the girls are growing more confident in the water, swim strokes are turning their slender bodies into water machines and their initial fear is growing into love of water.
Every day an average of 10 people die in the U.S. from unintentional drowning – with 20 percent of them 14 years old or younger, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children and sixth for people of all ages. In addition, for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
Red Cross swimming lessons help people develop skills and water safety behaviors that help people be more comfortable and safe when they are in, on and around the water. The Red Cross encourages all household members to enroll in age-appropriate water orientation and Learn-to-Swim programs.
To find classes for your family, contact your local aquatic facility and ask for American Red Cross swimming and water safety programs.