PICKENS – About 40 Pickens County 2nd and 3rd graders will get basic swimming and water safety training courtesy of a Greater Pickens Chamber of Commerce fundraiser.
Chamber President Mike Parrott presented an $840 check to Heather Cirincione Tuesday. The money was a portion of the proceeds of the chamber’s 2012 golf tournament. The chamber’s board of directors had designated the funds to Cirincione’s Operation Save a Life water safety program offered through the Pickens County YMCA.
The three-year-old program has helped 450 people learn basic swimming and water safety, Cirincione said. 233 of those came last summer.
“We started slowly four years ago after an incident in which three Pickens County family members died in a drowning incident,” Cirincione said. “That was the motivating force.”
Assisting with the start up were Baptist Easley Hospital, the American Red Cross and Anchor Pools of Easley.
Cirincione said program organizers have noticed that when children come to them unable to swim, their parents are also likely unable to swim and may be afraid of being around the water.
The training for youngsters and adults is individualized, focusing on basics for those who cannot swim.
By the time students complete the two-week, eight session course, most are able to blow bubbles and float on their backs, Cirincione said.
“Back floating is the most important,” she continued. “If you fall in the water and can roll on your back to float, you can breath.”
Also important in safety is knowing what to do if you need to help someone who is in trouble in the water.
“Don’t dive in yourself and try to grab on to someone. You might go down, too,” she said.
She advised throwing something, a rope, a float or a stick, to the person. A simple reminder phrase is, “Reach or throw. Don’t go,” Cirincione said.
She also encouraged people around water and boating to wear life jackets. “Don’t just pack it. Wear your jacket,” she said.
Cirincione grew up around water in Long Island, NY. She was a life guard at 15-years-old, a swim instructor at 16. She now serves as the YMCA’s aquatic director.
Ryan Smith, of the YMCA said, “The program has drastically decreased the chances of drowning for those young people involved.”