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By Chevon T. Baccus APR
Executive Editor 

Kindergartners Learn Water Safety from Josh the Baby Otter

Rotary on the Ridge Commits to Drowning Prevention


Last updated 5/14/2019 at 4:25pm

Williamson Photography of Lake Wales

Kindergartners at Spook Hill Elementary meet Josh the Baby Otter as they learn about water safety

An adult-size fuzzy otter is visiting kindergartners at Spook Hill Elementary School in Lake Wales May 1 and May 3 to stress the importance of safety around the water.

Rotary on the Ridge Vice President-elect Trey Heath read the book "Josh the Baby Otter" to teach the children some very important water safety concepts. Heath reinforced the importance of having a swim buddy, making sure there's an adult present at all times and floating on their backs should they ever end up in the water. Club Sergeant-at-Arms Drew Truitt will do the book reading May 3.

Sandra Wolf, club service project chair, demonstrated the "flip and float" technique by dropping a vinyl otter toy into a large bowl of water, showing that it would roll onto its back even if it went in head first.

Rotarian Kami Rickert wore the otter costume and led the children in singing and dancing. "Learn to Float" was the main message of the song. The children gave her lots of hugs and high fives.

Rickert also led the children in a pledge – right paws up – "I promise to be a good son or daughter. I promise to get an adult when I go near the water. This will keep me safe like Josh the baby otter."

Each kindergarten teacher received a classroom "Josh the Baby Otter" book and a plush otter puppet to use in the future to keep reinforcing the water safety message. Each child got a "Josh the Otter" coloring book and a sticker to wear home to let parents know about Josh and their children's pledge to stay away from the water without an adult.

"We are surrounded by water and too many children and adults never learn to swim," said Rotary on the Ridge Club President Megan Gillis. "Drowning is still the number one cause of death for Florida children under age 4 so we are committed to help prevent such tragedies."

Rotary on the Ridge plans to take the program to kindergarten classes and day care centers throughout East Polk County. The club also hopes to find community partners to expand the availability of free swim lessons for children. The next Josh the Otter presentations in May are scheduled for Chain of Lakes Elementary School. The club raised funds for the project by offering treasure maps with daily prizes. For each $10 given for the water safety initiative donors received a ticket entry for daily drawings. Many area businesses donated prizes, and club members wore pirate and mermaid costumes to reinforce the water theme.

Williamson Photography of Lake Wales

Rotary on the Ridge Vice President-Elect Trey Heath reads the "Josh the Baby Otter" book

The Josh the Baby Otter program is produced by JCMF Children's Charities in Lincoln, NE. It was developed by Kathy and Blake Collingsworth to honor the memory of their son Joshua, who was two and one-half years old when he died following a drowning accident in 2008. More information is available by visiting their website at

Rotary on the Ridge, chartered by Rotary International in December 2016, is a regional after hours service organization with 33 members from Lake Wales, Babson Park, Indian Lake Estates, Highland Park, Lake Hamilton, Bartow and Winter Haven. The club meets from 5-6 p.m. each Monday in the community room at the Ouellette Law Firm, 151 E. Central Ave. in Lake Wales. Visitors and prospective members are welcome. More information is available on the Rotary on the Ridge Facebook page or by emailing [email protected]

Author Bio

Chevon T. Baccus APR, Contributing Writer

After working as a newspaper reporter and editor for eight years, Chevon moved on to a long career in public relations, marketing and business development. After 2 1/2 years as founding publisher of she's happy to still be an occasional contributor.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 8636511065


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