The heat of summer is here and children and families are thinking about ways to stay cool and have fun, often this includes swimming in one of the many area lakes, pools or beaches.  For parents, swimming raises questions of safety in and around the water, so to prepare children with basic swimming and water safety skills, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges held a free community SPLASH Week.

The Y's SPLASH Week Program was free of charge and held at the East Orange Y, Sussex County Y and the West Essex Y.  SPLASH, an acronym for Swim, Play, and Learn Aquatic Safety Habits, is a national YMCA initiative intended to teach summer and water safety to local children.  Ensuring that children are comfortable in an aquatic environment at an early age teaches them a sense of responsibility around and a respect for the water which will help keep them safe throughout their lives.

The Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges' SPLASH Week provided one week of free swim instruction and water safety skills for both members of the YMCA and non-members in the community.  “We are very pleased that during SPLASH week we were able to provide 725 children of all swimming levels and abilities the opportunity to both increase their comfort level and skills in the water as well as their knowledge of water safety”, said Richard K. Gorab, President and CEO of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14, and more than half of all drownings among children ages 1-4 are pool related. For every child who dies from drowning, another four receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries. To combat these statistics, the Y is committed to providing swimming and water safety instruction to all children and adults in the community.

“With the summer swimming season upon us, we want to make sure residents of all ages have the opportunity to learn the basics of swimming and water safety in general.  Splash Week at the Y encourages families to make water safety a top priority this summer, said Mr. Gorab.”

At the Sussex County Y, the SPLASH program began with staff from the Y, headed by SPLASH Coordinator Alyssandra Docherty and Senior Program Director Rebecca Carlson, visiting nine area elementary schools including Cedar Mountain and Walnut Ridge in Vernon, Ogdensburg, Fredon, Hamburg, Stillwater, Hardyston Elementary and Helen Morgan in Sparta and performing skits at assemblies.  These assemblies, reaching over 1,000 area children, provided an interactive lesson on how to stay safe in the summer covering topics such as: heat and sun protection, bicycle safety, dangers encountered while taking walks, as well as safety at the beach or a pool.

SPLASH Week at the Y was not just for children, the West Essex Y's Splash Week was attended by both children and adults, ranging in ages from 3 to 60 years old. In total, the West Essex Y had 171 SPLASH participants, 21 adults and 150 children.

As a result of the SPLASH program, here are a few informational tips that can help you and your family stay safe around the water this summer:

·         Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool or lake. During social gatherings at or near water, appoint a "designated watcher" to protect young children from accidents. Adults may take turns being the "watcher." When adults become preoccupied, children are at risk.

·         If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability. Go to the edge of the pool and scan the entire pool, bottom and surface, as well as the pool area.

·         Do not allow a young child in the water without an adult.

·         Do not consider young children to be drown proof because they have had swimming lessons. Children must be watched closely while swimming.

·         Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.

The Y is for Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility and is accessible to all people.  Financial assistance is available to the individuals and families who need our help the most.

For more information about the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges or their SPLASH Week Program please call (973) 758-9622 or visit www.metroymcas.org.

The Y is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,687 Ys engage 21 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being while providing opportunities to give back and support the community.

The Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges is the largest Y in the state of New Jersey. Its Mission is to enrich the lives of the children, families and communities it serves through programs that build spirit, mind and body, welcoming all people, in an environment nurturing positive values. Its six branch facilities are located in East Orange, Livingston, Maplewood, Hardyston, Stillwater, and now in Wayne and provide a wide variety of services and activities:

• Quality all-day and after-school childcare, pre-school classes, recreational and enrichment programs e.g. swimming and other sports, arts, computer activities and day and sleep-away camps.

• Programs for adolescents and teens that include sports, parties and club activities.

• Programs for adults and seniors.