Olympians bring Make a Splash Tour to Orlando, combat childhood drownings

KeepHealthCare.ORG – Olympians bring Make a Splash Tour to Orlando, combat childhood drownings

When Ambrose Gaines IV was nine months old, his mother, Jettie, put him in the water.

It was time.

Growing up on Lake Eloise in Winter Haven, the boy who grew up to become a three-time Olympic swimming gold medalist known universally as Rowdy Gaines benefited from having two parents who water-skied for Cypress Gardens.

“My mom had a Styrofoam bubble that she would put on my back and would shave it off as the summer progressed,’’ said Gaines, 59. “That’s how I ended up learning how to swim, because by the end of summer, I would have a belt around my waist. It’s a little different than we do today.’’

Gaines, vice president of aquatics for the Central Florida YMCA, will take part in the Make a Splash Tour on Wednesday.

The 10th annual tour is aimed at highlighting how prevalent and preventable childhood drownings are, encouraging parents to enroll children in swim lessons and adding a question to the 2020 Census.

Do you know how to swim?

“Not only [can] swimming save your life, but it’s something that you can enjoy forever and ever,’’ Gaines said.

Olympic champions Ryan Lochte, Cullen Jones and Caeleb Dressel will join Gaines at the South Orlando YMCA (814 W. Oak Ridge Rd.) on Wednesday morning to showcase the world’s largest kickboard — 18 feet by 11 feet — to emphasize the importance of an early start in swimming.

From 2-4 p.m. Wednesday, Gaines and Jones will hold a clinic at the Osceola County YMCA (2117 W. Mabbette St., Kissimmee).

“I want to change this perception that not only is this an amazing sport, but it is a life skill,’’ Jones said.

When Jones was 5 years old, he nearly drowned at an amusement park. He said his parents and lifeguards were nearby. Jones said he was under water for 30 seconds.

Jones was 15 when his mother recalled the frightening episode.

“To watch my mother tell me that story in tears, I don’t want to see any parent have to go through that,’’ said Jones, 34.

According to data from the USA Swimming Foundation, only car accidents cause more unintentional deaths among children under 14 than drowning. An estimated 3,500 people drown annually, with about a quarter of them youths under 14.

Florida ranks first nationally for drowning deaths for children 1-4, state Department of Health statistics revealed.

“[Drowning’s] like a disease,’’ Gaines said. “We found the cure. The cure to this disease is to put your child in swim lessons.’’

More than 6 million children have received free or reduced-cost swim lessons through the Make a Splash initiative.

“We’re not going to teach a child how to swim in 30 minutes or an hour or however long a lesson is, but we will teach them some valuable tools about water safety,’’ Gaines said.

“That’s the big thing.’’

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Source: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/get-healthy-orlando/os-s-sp-rowdy-gaines-ryan-lochte-make-a-splash-tour-0613-story.html

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