MORRIS – Learning about how to be safe in the water was made into a fun, interactive event Saturday morning at the Morris YMCA’s Water Safety Day, held in Goold Park.
Only about a dozen kids and their families attended the event, with the morning temperatures hovering in the upper 60s, but those who did learned safety lessons through games at the band shell, then headed over to the pavilion for free hot dogs, grilled by Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick and businessman Paul Gantzert.
Families who wanted to then crossed the street for some free swimming at the Morris Pool.
The Morris YMCA and the city of Morris joined with the Greater Joliet Area YMCA Aquatics Team to host the event. Danielle Krohn, Aquatics Director at C.W. Avery Family YMCA in Joliet, led the instruction. The Morris YMCA does not have its own pool at this time.
Jennifer Wagner of Sheridan brought her five-year-old daughter Riley to the event. They sat on beach towels in front of the band shell for the lessons.
“This was supposed to be our first hurrah to the summer,” Wagner said.
She said that in addition to learning the rules about safe swimming, she wanted to introduce her daughter to the people who worked at the pool so that she would know who go to go if there was a problem during swim times.
Jessica Willis of Verona brought her two daughters, Lila, 7, and Leah, 8, so they could learn some safety lessons. The girls are signed up for the YMCA’s summer camp, and their mother wanted to make sure they had a good review of the rules.
“They really get excited around water,” Willis said, “and I want them to know to be careful.”
Among the safety subjects Krohn taught the children at the event were how to recognize a lifeguard, what it means when a lifeguard blows their whistle, what the job of a lifeguard is, when and how to wear a life jacket, and how to choose a good-fitting life jacket.
“When a lifeguard blows a whistle,” she said, “it means you need to stop whatever you’re doing and look at the lifeguard to see what they want.”
It could mean it’s time for everyone to get out of the water for a few minutes or that a swimmer is not obeying the rules.
The kids played the “Lifeguard Says” game to reinforce that lesson.
Also at the event, YMCA lifeguards put on lifejackets to show the children what a proper fit looks like. They also told them the proper way to jump in water while wearing a lifejacket is to cross your arms across your chest with your hands toward your neck and hold onto the jacket. Otherwise, they said, the jacket could rise and bump them in the face when they hit the water.
Another important rule was to always make sure an adult gives them permission to go into a pool or other body of water.
“You always need to ask permission before you get in the water,” Krohn said, “whether there’s a lifeguard there or not. Wait and ask Mom or Dad if it’s safe to go in.”
If you see someone having trouble while swimming, Krohn added, throw them something that floats or lie flat on your tummy and hold out a pool noodle for them to grab.
Morris YMCA Executive Director Missy Durkin said this was the first year of the water safety event. It was the center’s Youth and Family Director Sarah Porzel who thought it up due to the large number of swimming pools and natural bodies of water in the area.