Louisiana Splash & Water Safety returns for Summer 2022

Published 3:24 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2022

LAPLACE — Louisiana ranked fourth highest in the United States for drowning deaths in 2020. During the same year, Louisiana saw a 60% spike in drownings among children ages 14 and younger.

These troubling statistics and needless deaths are the inspiration behind Louisiana Splash and Water Safety, a nonprofit organization that improves access to lifesaving swimming lessons and water safety programs for children, adults and first responders.

Since the organization was founded in 2018, President/Executive Director Melynie Wright and Director of Programs Anita Hefler have dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours to water safety awareness.

Due to Hurricane Ida damage to Louisiana Splash and Water Safety’s usual home base pools, the organization has formed a new partnership with Apostle Renita Graber at Victorious Life Family Worship Center to continue providing these critical services to the community.

“The great thing about Apostle Renita Graber is that she is community-minded. I think she saw like-mindedness in us to see how we can come together and serve the people,” Wright said. “We are going to do water aerobics there as well so everything is offered in one place. We’ll be offering lessons for kids, and we’ll be doing another week for adults.”

Each year, Wright and Hefler deliver swimming lessons to approximately 100 individuals, including those with disabilities. However, Wright said water safety education goes beyond knowing how to swim; it involves being aware of your surroundings to enter and exit a pool safely, never swimming unattended, securing backyard pools, teaching children the appropriate time to enter a pool, and understanding the differences between swimming in a pool and swimming in a natural body of water.

The week before Hurricane Ida struck Southeast Louisiana in August 2021, Louisiana Splash and Water Safety partnered with the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office to offer water survival training to first responders.

That training proved to be vital only days later, when officers launched more than 800 rescue efforts into flooded streets after Hurricane Ida pummeled St. John Parish with more than six hours of rainfall and storm surge. All rescue operations were successful, and zero storm-related deaths were reported.

Sgt. John Norsworthy, who heads the SJSO water survival training, said, “On some emergency calls, officers can end up in water, since the River Parishes are surrounded by water…Without training officers to understand their own limitations, these potential rescuers could become victims.”

Norsworthy added, “To avoid officers becoming victims in water emergencies, as well as build their confidence while working in a maritime environment, Sheriff Mike Tregre requires officers to participate in basic water survival training. Our training focuses on becoming proficient in water survival skills and increasing awareness on how to modify duty equipment to increase chances of survival…Working in partnership with Louisiana Splash and Water Safety, we are able to help officers strengthen skills and learn techniques to survive in and on the water in the event of an unexpected immersion into the water.”

First responder outreach is expected to continue this year.

Wright also travels to conduct private backyard lessons, not only in St. John Parish, but across the surrounding region.

“Just like water travels, I will travel to wherever the water is. I think it’s great to teach a family in their backyard because I get to lay my eyes on the safety of their backyard pool,” Wright said. “Lessons, instruction and parental involvement really is the best safety vest.”

Whether a child or an adult is learning to swim for the first time, Wright said the benefits are endless when it comes to breaking a multi-generational cycle of fear.

“Hopefully we are making a dent, especially in our corner of the world where we are surrounded by water. It’s kind of like riding a bike. Everyone should know how to do it,” Wright said. “When somebody knows how to swim, they can stop a relative or a friend from having a fatal accident. You can’t even wrap your head around how many lives you save when people have knowledge of how to swim.”

Louisiana Splash and Water Safety also offers health and wellness programs, including water aerobics classes that will be offered from 8 to 8:45 a.m. Monday through Friday starting in June.

Those interested in becoming a donor or obtaining information about available programs can contact Wright at 225-328-6084, email louisianasplashandwatersafety@gmail.com or find Louisiana Splash and Water Safety on Facebook.