Over 400 second-graders from McDowell County Schools participate in the Y Splash program every year to learn drowning prevention.

Students rotate through three different centers at the pool of the Corpening Memorial YMCA taught by YMCA volunteers. Recently, The McDowell News visited one of the sessions with Marion Elementary second-graders.

“At this center—Reach or Throw Don’t Go—they learn to reach with their hand or throw a ring buoy or whatever they can reach or throw instead of jumping into the pool to save somebody’s life,” said Y Splash Coordinator Bre Treadway. “That way there is not two people drowning, and they are learning to save somebody’s life. There are specific techniques they learn like how to yell for help and to scoot all the way to the edge of the pool.”

Next, at the Think So You Don’t Sink center, students learn how to float on their backs.

“That is a really important skill to learn,” said Treadway. “They also learn to look before they leap because we have so many lakes around here that leaping into the lake is not always the best thing to do if you can’t see the bottom.”

They are taught to jump, push, turn and grab so when they jump into a pool the students then push off the bottom and turn and grab the wall.

“It’s really important for them to learn where the bottom is if they can’t touch it immediately,” said Treadway. “They are also learning how to exit the water because everybody can get in a pool, but not everybody can get out of the pool, and that technique is called elbow, elbow, tummy, knee.”

Finally, one of the most exciting centers is learning about boat safety with a canoe.

“They are learning how to get in and out of the canoe,” Treadway said. “A canoe is something very common you see at a lake and used often.”

Other techniques taught are how to jump in with a life jacket, breathing out of their noses, swimming to land and what to do if a boat capsizes. This program is offered to students as a free service thanks to the donors of the YMCA campaign.

“The kids really enjoy it,” said second-grade teacher Nicole Owenby of Marion Elementary School. “This is something all of my second-graders have remembered year after year. They learn a lot of water and boat safety and they really have a good time.”

Molly Heintzelman, aquatic director at the YMCA, said she is so grateful for the volunteers who take their time to teach these life-saving skills to students. Second grade is the recommended age for drowning prevention programs.

“When we started this program, it was only one or two schools, and now it’s offered to every second grader in McDowell County,” said Heintzelman. “Thank you to our volunteers. Some of them have been volunteering for the whole time we have had this program.”

The YMCA volunteers present during this program were Donna Ledford, Caroline Pugg, Julie Toffaletti, Lou Toffaletti, Marie Franklin and June Hoffman.

“It’s just awesome for these kids to have this opportunity,” said Hoffman. “This program will save lives. It’s all about water safety, saving your life and saving someone else’s life.”

Many of the skills learned during the Y Splash program are offered during year-round swim lessons at the YMCA. You don’t have to be a Y member to sign up for swimming lessons, and many income-based discounts are available. For more information, call 659-9622 or visit www.ymcawnc.org/corpening.

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