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A life-saving ‘drop’ of prevention

In a matter of weeks, thousands of youngsters from the City of Richmond will race for neighborhood pools, ponds and creeks to celebrate the start of summer vacation with a splash.

And Veronica Stewart, who lives in the suburbs of far western Henrico, has been working all winter to make sure none of those splashes are unplanned, unexpected or go undetected.

As a Girl Scout of ten years and a certified lifeguard, Stewart says she had little difficulty when it came time to choose the focus of her Gold Award project.

"I love being around water and working with children," says Stewart, a sophomore at Godwin High School. "The [swim lessons and water safety for children] topic was a logical choice."

During her lifeguard and CPR training, the Red-Cross-certified Stewart says, she was shocked to learn of the traps and dangerous situations that can be encountered when people are in or around the water.

She was also alarmed to learn the statistics about the prevalence/frequency of drowning, and about the people most at risk. Nearly 80 percent of fatalities from drowning, for instance, occur among males. Less surprising, but still disturbing: the highest drowning rates occur among children between the ages one and four.

"Children are 100 times more likely to die in a pool than by a firearm," she says. "And drowning is also a silent killer.

"Most young children who drowned in pools were last seen in the home, had been out of sight less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time."

Suits and skills
In an effort to raise public awareness about the importance of water safety and the ease and speed with which children can slip away into danger, Stewart has developed a Facebook page devoted to drowning prevention. In addition to displaying statistics and links to water safety websites, the site also promotes an annual event called The Worlds Largest Swimming Lesson.

"Everyone young and old must know this life-saving skill," she emphasizes, adding that parents should establish water safety rules when children are very young – and better yet, start early teaching children to float or swim.

But Stewart hasn't stopped at educating parents and children on the importance of water safety and swim lessons; she also volunteers at Jack-n-Jill School as a swim teacher. What's more, she coordinates the collection of swim gear and new or gently used swimsuits for the “Learn to Swim" programs at the Downtown and Northside YMCAs, where City of Richmond second graders take lessons.

"Thousands of children come through the program each year," says Stewart, "and most do not have bathing suits."

Another measure Stewart has taken as part of her Gold Award project is recruiting individuals and businesses to provide scholarships for low-income swimmers to attend summer camps with swim lessons.

It bothers Stewart that every summer, she hears on the news about children and adults who drown – often in the river, but in swimming pools as well – and that fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages one to 14 years. (In Henrico County, two adults and two children have
drowned over the past three years; all the drownings occurred in swimming pools, according to statistics Stewart obtained from Capt. Bryan Miers of the Henrico Division of Fire.)

Less publicized, Stewart says, are statistics not included in fatality rates: the many near-drownings and close calls, and victims who need emergency treatment or suffer serious injury as a result.

Once her Gold Award project is complete, Stewart hopes another Girl Scout troop or organization will continue collecting swimsuits and swim gear for the downtown and northside YMCA programs.

After all, she is active with other organizations too – including volunteer work with Freedom House, SOHO (Student Organization Helping Others) and The Fresh Start for Single Mothers and Their Children community outreach program. She is also almost halfway through high school and – although she enjoys the subjects of history and science – still unsure about her college and career plans.

But there is one thing Stewart is positive about when it comes to her future.

"I will continue on as a lifeguard," she says, "and teaching swimming lessons to children."

Collection sites for swimsuits and swim gear include: Love of Jesus Thriftique (next to the Food Lion in Lauderdale Shopping Center); Jack-n-Jill School at 8316 Michael Rd., and 3Sports in the River Road Shopping Center. For details about sponsoring a low-income minority child's learn-to-swim classes, call Pam Brown, director of Jack-n-Jill School, at 270-3030. To view Stewart's Facebook page devoted to drowning prevention, or for information about The Worlds Largest Swimming Lesson, visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/Water-Safety-for-Children/555383424473239?ref=hl
Community

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.

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Richmond Entrepreneur's Assistance Program (REAP), a nonprofit that gives job training to individuals with disabilities, has partnered with Field of Dreams Farm. Fresh produce will be boxed and sold at… Full text

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