Prevent Child Drownings
The drowning of a Phoenix child is an all-too familiar headline especially as the weather heats up this spring. In 2012 altogether in the Valley of the Sun, 17 children and three teens drowned. Arizona is ranked second in the nation for child drowning.
While far too many children drowned here, an amazing story also waits to be told: Arizona is home to some of the nations most recognized and respected drowning prevention programs. Working together, advocates have brought innovative programs and messages to the community and the child drowning rate in recent years is at some of the lowest per capita levels in twenty years as a result.
Water Safety Coordinator:
Water Watchers at Phoenix Children’s Hospital Injury Prevention Center
Weston’s Mom, Druann Letter was working inside her home, and her husband was in the garage fixing his car. For only a moment, they lost sight of their three-year-old son as he played nearby, next to the family’s backyard swimming pool. “You don’t hear a child drown. They call it the silent death,” says Letter.
Weston (or Wessie as his best friends called him) was an energetic little boy who loved fire trucks, ATC’s, bugs, lizards, M&M’s, Oreo cookies, chocolate milk, his twin sisters, and his friends and family. Each day, Weston’s mommy, daddy, and twin sisters yearn to hear his sweet voice echo “I love you” and feel his warm, tender hugs.
Weston’s father, a local firefighter, is trained in CPR and is experienced in responding to tragic calls. Druann is an elementary school educator and teaches childhood safety to her students. The Letters went to all lengths to protect their children and teach them safety measures. During the first two summers of Weston’s young life, he was enrolled in swimming lessons and was aware of potential water dangers. “We were pretty cautious parents,” says Letter. “We just didn’t think enough that it could happen to us.”
Druann promised her son that his death would never be in vain. She founded Water Watchers, a program that teaches water safety to children and parents around the community. Through Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and with the help of community volunteers, corporate sponsors, and various Valley of the Sun Fire Departments, Water Watchers reaches thousands of families each year, teaching them the ABC’s of Water Safety.
Letter’s advice to parents is to have more than one safety strategy. Don’t rely solely on a pool fence, self-latching gate or motion sensor, she says, but teach children how to swim and to designate a ”water watcher” when other kids are in the water. Parents should also keep a telephone, leaf net, and life-preserver nearby.
- Near Drowning in North Phoenix (myfoxphoenix.com)