The Heat is On!

Keep your family safe around pools

Summer is in full swing, meaning barbeques, bike rides, baseball games and just about everyone’s favorite warm-weather pastime— hanging out at the swimming pool.

Local experts say when children know how to swim, they can better enjoy all water activities.

“Swimming is a critical life skill,” said Whitehouse resident Chris Peters, owner of the new SafeSplash + SwimLabs, which he opened with his wife, Marianne, in the Spring Meadows Shopping Plaza last month. The couple has two young children.

“Beyond giving parents peace of mind that their children will be safe, swimming lessons provide young people an opportunity to feel proud, build confidence and develop socially,” he added.


Lifesaving skill

“As parents and members of this community, we have a deep commitment to the health, safety and well-being of area children,” said Peters. “Learning how to swim builds self-esteem and confidence in a child. By far, the most important reason for lessons is it can save their life.”

Peters points to American Academy of Pediatrics stats, which show drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. among children ages 1 to 4 and the third-leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths in kids ages 5 to 19.

Another positive aspect of swimming is that it keeps youngsters’ lungs healthy, improves flexibility, increases strength and even helps with balance and posture. “It’s also a great cross-training exercise for any sport,” said Peters.

Peters is a former Ohio State University Assistant Swim Coach and University of Toledo Women’s Swim Coach, and qualified for the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100 and 200-meter backstroke.

“We are fiercely passionate about swimming and are excited to take your youngsters from bubbles to butterfly!” Peters said.

Water confidence

Aaron Hubbard, Aquatics Director at the Sylvania YMCA/JCC, enjoys managing the busy, large outdoor pool on Sylvania Avenue, offering progressive swimming lessons which focus on

personal safety and water confidence. The popular swimming spot has a staff of 30 lifeguards who watch over a diving well, lap lanes and recreational swimming areas.

Aaron Hubbard, Aquatics Director at the Sylvania YMCA/JCC
Aaron Hubbard, Aquatics Director at the Sylvania YMCA/JCC

Hubbard, who is also the coach of the Sylvania YMCA/JCC summer swim team, sees swimming as one of the most important life skills to learn. “Almost everyone enjoys being around the water— it’s relaxing and fun,” he said, explaining that the pool he manages enforces a wristband system, which identifies weak swimmers from those who are skilled enough to enjoy the deep end and diving boards. He described passing the swim test at the Sylvania YMCA/JCC as a rite of passage, one many swimmers will never forget.

Besides passing the swim test, parents should also make sure their children stay hydrated, not run on the deck, take frequent breaks and only dive in the deep end of the pool, he said. Youngsters who know how to swim should still be supervised in and around water, Hubbard said, becoming even more important as temperatures heat up and pools become crowded.

“We ask parents to help lifeguards enforce the rules and also to keep a close eye on their swimmers,” he said. “We want everyone to have fun and stay safe.”


Backyard pool dangers

Sylvania resident Joe Lenkay, Safety Consultant for Acuity Loss Control Services, said backyard pools present even more dangers than public pools. Guard your children against serious or fatal injury by enforcing these rules:

  • Check municipal fencing requirements when installing a pool.
  • Install water alarms.
  • Enter the water feet first instead of diving.
  • Require adult supervision at all times.
  • Have a first aid kit handy.
  • Have a poolside telephone.
  • Don’t leave toys by pool to tempt youngsters to be near the water.
  • Take a lifesaving and CPR course.
  • Enroll yourself and your children in water safety and swimming courses.

The Josh Project


In 2015, an estimated 360,000 people died from drowning. Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death, accounting for 7 percent of all injury-related deaths.

Toledoan Wanda James Butts’ son, Josh, was one of those awful statistics. In 2006, 16-year-old Josh drowned while rafting on a lake with friends. He did not know how to swim, and he was not wearing a life jacket.

Despite facing every mother’s worst fear, Butts turned her horrendous loss into something positive: she founded The Josh Project, a nonprofit drowning prevention agency. “I could have easily [wallowed in pain], but I believe in a higher being, and my faith in that higher being was how I was able to do it otherwise,” Butts says.

Just over a decade old, the Josh Project has helped teach countless Toledo children how to safely swim and play alongside the water through advocacy, education and hands-on learning, including inexpensive swim lessons offered at the St. Francis De Sales HS Natatorium, made possible through a partnership with the Greater Toledo Aquatic Club.

To inquire about signing up for swim lessons, or to learn how to get involved through donations or as a volunteer,
call 567-343-0766 or visit

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