By Amanda Hatfield Anderson
BREVARD -- Residents along Florida's Space Coast are blessed with a bevy of water-related activities throughout the year.
While the water can be a great place to have fun, there are many dangers for those, who may not have the proper training and experience. One group, however, has created an event to help better educate the importance of water safety.
On Saturday, March 8, Swim Safe Forever, in partnership with the Brevard County Health Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, Infant Swimming Resource certified instructors, as well as other local agencies, will host the fourth annual Water Safety Day at the Wickham Park Amphitheater in Melbourne.
The event, which also features the Splash Dash 5K and Ultimate Hero Challenge, provides a fun environment to share water safety information, while raising funds for survival swim scholarships.
"Myself and another ISR instructor, Briana Craycroft, saw a need for more to be done in our community," said Carmen Glasser, Swim Safe Forever secretary, board member and event coordinator. "We attended an ISR conference that year, and two families came to speak to our group of instructors."
Mrs. Glasser said that these families shared how they lost their children, as a result of drowning, and at the time, did not know about Infant Swimming Resource.
"They did not know that the skill of their children knowing how to roll over onto their backs and float was a skill that could have saved their child's life," Mrs. Glasser said. "They were devastated, and so were we."
Driving home from the conference, Mrs. Glasser and Ms. Craycroft decided that if one more child drowned in Brevard County because they either did not know about ISR-typed lesson or couldn't afford lessons, they had failed their community.
It was this brainstorming session that gave way to the first annual Water Safety Day, held on May 15, 2010. Mrs. Glasser said all funds raised from the initial event were applied toward a scholarship program by ISR.
"After this event, we realized that we needed to form a formal organization," Mrs. Glasser added. "We began the groundwork of founding Swim Safe Forever."
The mission of Swim Safe Forever is twofold -- to provide water safety education and to provide scholarships for survival-typed swim lessons.
"We are a young organization, but we are gaining community involvement each day," Mrs. Glasser said. "We have created water safety brochures that we distribute at various community events."
The Brevard County Health Department has also been working closely with SSF to prevent drowning, Mrs. Glasser added.
Saturday's event will include all of the initiatives that Swim Safe Forever stands for, as well as the Splash Dash 5K and the second annual Ultimate Hero Challenge.
The Ultimate Hero Challenge is a running course, spanning one intense mile, with several difficult cross-fit style challenges, such as the low crawl, hill climbers, jumping trenches and more.
"There is no cost for the UHC for first responders, such as firefighters, EMTs, lifeguards, police officers and ER staff, regardless of when they register," Mrs. Glasser said. "For all other challengers, the cost of the UHC is $10, with no increase for registration at the event."
Advanced cost to participate in the Splash Dash 5K is $25 for individuals and $22 for a member of a team, but this rate lasts only until Thursday, March 6. After that, the individual registration is $30, and the team registration is $27 per team member.
In addition to the UHC and Splash Dash 5K, Water Safety Day attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a silent auction, with Running Zone gift certificates, a three-month family membership to the Suntree YMCA and six weeks of ISR lessons, as well as much more.
"The most common comment I hear from parents regarding water safety is that they do not think something could happen to them," Mrs. Glasser said. "Sometimes they cite not having a pool, sometimes they claim they always watch their children. It is important to note that children don't only drown in pools, and nearly any place you go in Florida, there is a body of water nearby."
According to statistics provided by the Brevard County Health Department, there were 18 fatal drowning events, five of which happened to children younger than 4.
"For every child, who drowns, four more are the victims of near-drownings requiring emergency care," Mrs. Glasser added. "The very sad and tragic truth is that 70 percent of all preschoolers who drown are in the care of their parents."
With so many tragedies in the world today, Mrs. Glasser said she strongly believes that drowning does not need to be one of them, and hopes that Space Coast residents attend Water Safety Day to learn how they can prevent such a tragedy from happening to them.
"This is a very unique and exciting way to learn about water safety and have fun at the same time," Mrs. Glasser said. "You will walk away from Water Safety Day learning something new that might just save a life."
Swim Safe Forever will host Water Safety Day, as well as the Ultimate Hero Challenge and Splash Dash 5K, on Saturday, March 8 at the Wickham Park Amphitheater. Cost to attend is free.
For more information or to register for the Ultimate Hero Challenge or Splash Dash 5K, visit www.WaterSafetyDay.com.