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By Chevon T. Baccus APR
Executive Editor 

Josh the Baby Otter Reaches 200 More Kindergartners with Water Safety Tips

Project by Rotary on the Ridge


Last updated 5/14/2019 at 4:25pm

Kindergartners at Chain of Lakes Elementary pose with Josh the Baby Otter and Rotary on the Ridge members

Rotary on the Ridge members presented the "Josh the Otter" water safety program May 14 to about 200 kindergartners at Chain of Lakes Elementary School. The school's adult-size fuzzy otter mascot visited 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 President Megan Gillis read the book "Josh the Baby Otter" to teach the children some very important water safety concepts. Club members 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. Vice President-Elect Trey Heath read the book May 1 and Club Sergeant-at-Arms Drew Truitt read on May 3.

Sandra Wolf, club service project chair, demonstrated the "flip and float" technique at Spook Hill 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. Club past president Terri Miller demonstrated the "flip and float" otter at Chain of Lakes.

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 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.

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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