With the Golden Isles well into the busy summer season, the Golden Isles YMCA wants to put beach safety at the forefront of the public’s mind.
To encourage safety-mindedness, the YMCA will be out on St. Simons Island early next month to promote its Water Watcher program, said Nicole Fairfield, senior program director at the YMCA.
After multiple incidents in its facilities last summer, the Y started handing out lanyards to parents at swimming lessons and other programs.
When taking children swimming, one adult should be wearing the lanyard. That adult would be the designated water watcher, Fairfield said.
“It’s a little reminder to make sure you’re not overlooking the important responsibility of watching the children,” Fairfield said. “... That’s what sometimes happens. It’s a big event, and you just assume somebody else is watching them, so the lanyard is just to remind them, ‘Oh, it’s my turn, I’m supposed to be watching them.’ It’s not that nobody watches their kids.”
Fairfield said a number of drownings on the beach later that same summer led them to extend the program to the old Coast Guard station parking area.
“Last year, me and my boss met with the (Glynn County Recreation and Parks Department) director, Lisa (Gurganus), to talk about the YMCA Water Watcher program, where we encourage parents to be a water watcher,” Fairfield said. “... After last year, we thought the best way to help the community would go out on the busiest week of the year.”
On July 6, the Saturday nearest to the Fourth of July, Fairfield and others will set up near the beach to spread the word about the Water Watcher program.
Along with informational material, they’ll pass out lanyards to beach-going groups, especially those with children.
They handed out around 75 lanyards last year, Fairfield said, and they’re raising the bar this year by aiming for 1,000.
“It’s not that nobody watches their kids, it’s just that it only takes one. We want to prevent that one,” Fairfield said.
She hopes to make the Y an annual presence, handing out lanyards every year on the nearest Saturday to Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
Gurganus said the county’s Recreations and Parks Department fully supports the program.
“They approached us last year about being there on some of the busiest holiday weekends to promote beach safety and watching over kids. It’s a great idea,” Gurganus said. “There were two drownings on Mother’s Day last year, and then another child was in a tidal pool. They were taken to the hospital.”
The Department of Natural Resources will post up in the Coast Guard parking area on July 3 as well to promote its Beach Week safety initiative, she said.
Having two groups working to promote beach safety is only positive, Gurganus added.