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.
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Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


The Richmond Raceway Complex has two exciting, albeit very different, events taking place this weekend: the Richmond Antique Extravaganza Show and Sale and Discover the Dinosaurs Unleashed. If you’re searching for date night ideas, Wild Ponies will be performing at the Henrico Theatre tonight, CAT Theatre will present “Wishing Well” and The Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond will broadcast Bolshoi Ballet’s production of “The Sleeping Beauty.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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The Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond will broadcast Bolshoi Ballet’s production of “The Sleeping Beauty” at 12:55 p.m. in Camp Concert Hall, Booker Hall of Music. Pathe Live's Bolshoi Ballet program brings the best Bolshoi Ballet productions direct from Moscow, Russia to cinemas and performing arts centers across the U.S. Each production features behind-the-scenes programming, including interviews with the cast and creative teams, either prior to the start of the production, or during intermission. Tickets are $7 to $14. For details, call 289-8980 or visit http://www.modlin.richmond.edu. Full text

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