Communication Builds Our Community

McLaughlin Students Help Rotary Spread Water Safety Message

Drama students at McLaughlin Middle School & Fine Arts Academy presented a special Josh the Baby Otter water safety program to Head Start pre-kindergarten students June 1.

Under the leadership of first year drama teacher Alexandra Meridionale, the students acted out the Josh the Baby Otter book and created their own version of the "Learn to Float" song and dance.

Rotary on the Ridge, a regional after hours service club, has presented the Josh the Baby Otter program to more than 600 area pre-K and kindergarten children, but the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many of the live performances. The McLaughlin drama performance to two classes of Head Start students was videotaped by Rotarian LaVaughn Williamson of Williamson Photography, who is editing it so it can be made available on DVD and online to a wider audience.

Rotary leaves behind a book and puppet to each classroom and provides a coloring book to each child. Part of the presentation involves having the children take a safety pledge to stay safe around water by always having an adult present and by learning to float. The children get a sticker to wear home to show their parents they took the pledge.

Rotary on the Ridge was recognized with a 2020 Water Safety Advocate Award from the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation, which was formed to educate children and adults worldwide about water safety through utilization of drowning prevention campaigns and early childhood water safety training. The foundation was formed by Kathy and Blake Collinsworth, who lost their son Joshua in 2008 after he drowned in a backyard pool.

"While live presentations are special and will continue we needed a way to get the water safety message to more children and families," said Rotary project chairperson Sandy Odom. "Drowning is a major cause of death for young children and with so many pools and lakes around we are committed to spreading the water safety message as widely as possible."

Rotary on the Ridge also is partnering with the City of Lake Wales, the YMCA and the Lincoln Community Development Corporation to offer free swim lessons to area children this summer. A We Swim Splash Party is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Friday, June 18 at the YMCA at 1001 Burns Ave. The event will include free music and food, and families will be able to sign their children up for free swim lessons. City residents also can register for free pool access during special hours.


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