Sometimes significant events happen in our lives that bring us to our knees and render us helpless. Isn’t it times like those that seem to present the greatest opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others?
Such is the case with the death of young Joshua Collingsworth, son of Kathy and Blake Collingsworth of Lincoln, Nebraska. The scenario itself is so common, particularly in Arizona, it is almost cliché … a beautiful day by the pool spent with family and friends, a moment or two lapses when each parent mistakenly believes that the other is watching their child, until someone says the words, “Where is ….”
The day this happened to the Collingsworth family changed their lives forever. Little Joshua was found floating in the pool, and after spending three days on life support at Children’s Hospital in Omaha, his parents made the agonizing decision to remove the machines that were keeping him alive. He passed away 45 minutes later. The Collingsworths were devastated by the loss of their only child.
This could have easily ruined any parent. The last thing that a parent expects to do is bury his or her own child, especially at such a tender age. The Collingsworths knew that Joshua would have been a great young man if given the opportunity, so they decided to make his legacy great, by giving other children the opportunity to live long, productive lives.
They started by giving other children the gift of life through organ donation as soon as Joshua passed away. Soon after, they became committed to making sure no more children succumb to drowning, and toward that end, they created the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation.
Blake Collingsworth wrote a book to reach their target demographic, two- to five-year-olds. The book tells the story of Josh the Otter, who learns to float under adult supervision, and then learns to swim. It is a fun and educational book that emphasizes to children the importance of learning to float first like Josh the Baby Otter and never going near the water without an adult.
Within the past few years the book has grown in popularity and is being widely supported by many Rotary clubs, schools, community clubs, individual donors and businesses.
Residents Tom and Bonnie Markham were attending an international Rotary convention last May when they first discovered this worthwhile project. It was the engaging of the parents, caregivers and teachers by the children that attracted the Markhams to this project. “It’s not just the usual list of dos and don’ts on water safety handed out to parents,” Bonnie said. “Kids are encouraged to engage their caregivers and anybody who will read to them the story so they will never forget to be safe like Josh the Baby Otter.
During the Markhams’ visits to local preschools, impressionable youngsters are read the story, meet the Josh the Otter puppet, take the pledge declaring they will not go near water without an adult and, in that way, will be safe like Josh the Baby Otter. They then receive a copy of the “Josh the Otter” book, as well as a CD that includes the Josh the Otter story and the Josh the Otter water safety song. The children also receive a Josh the Otter coloring book and a Josh the Otter sticker, worn proudly to show and engage parents and caregivers.
The Anthem Rotary Club has funded the Markhams to present the Josh the Otter program to a number of preschools in Anthem. To date, almost 600 preschoolers have attended the Markhams’ presentation.
Anthem Rotary will be taking the program to the Rotary District Conference in Prescott with the hope of getting other Rotary clubs involved so more schools in Arizona can experience this life-saving project. If you’re interested in bringing this program to your child’s school, please contact Bonnie Markham from Rotary Club of Anthem.
If you want to be proactive about teaching your little one to swim, lessons are a fantastic opportunity for children as young as 6 months old to start learning water safety skills.
Aqua-Tots Swim Schools recommend that all children be enrolled in some type of swimming lesson program as early as possible. Of course, lessons can never take the place of constant supervision, but they are a great start!
Aqua-Tots offers fast-track classes that run for two weeks from May 21 to July 19. Swimming classes are available in Anthem from June 4 through Aug. 30 at Bela Rosa apartments pool, and are held at Ironhorse apartments in Tramonto from June 5 through June 28. In-home, private, semi-private or group swimming lessons are also available.