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Wednesday, 22 July 2015 00:00

Teaching kids to ‘swim to survive’

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            Mitchell Temple-Medhurst died tragically at the Port Stanley Beach in 2004—just one of the more than 500 Canadians who die needlessly every year in unintentional water-related fatalities.

            Like Mitchell, a high percentage of these preventable deaths are of

young children.

            Since Mitchell had been in the care of a Children’s Aid Society at the time, the event prompted an inquest and a complete review of the recommendations for water-based activities for children in care.

            That review led Family and Children’s Services of St. Thomas & Elgin to begin an initiative nine years ago called Mitchell’s Medals—to honour Mitchell’s memory and to encourage children in care to learn techniques that could one day save their lives.

            The Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society (KHCAS) now hands out those medals as well, and has also set a goal to provide the children in care with a chance to achieve proficiency in the The Lifesaving Society of Canada’s “Swim to Survive” test.

            The STS test measures the children’s ability to:

  • Orient themselves at the surface after an unexpected entry into the water;
  • Support themselves at the surface by treading water for one minute; and
  • Swim to safety by covering 50 metres using any stroke.

            Accompanied by their caregivers or foster parents, more than 60 children in the Society’s care were tested last month, and then enjoyed a barbeque where they were awarded with a bronze, silver or gold medal depending on the level of water safety they are able to achieve.

            All children received at least a bronze medal for entering the water.

            “Summertime and water-based activities go hand in hand but all children must be given the tools they need in order to enjoy the experience and remain safe,” commented Jennifer Wilson, Executive Director of KHCAS.

            The Water Safety Policy at KHCAS aims to balance safety needs with the need for normal childhood experiences.

            “By holding this event annually in memory of Mitchell, we hope to provide a learning experience that is also very enjoyable for children receiving services from the Society,” said Wilson.

            If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or foster parent for the society, please call Tania Nanni at 705-743-9751, extension 1221.

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