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Young Children Benefit from Water Safety Training
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Tracey Kiest, American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter
June 2, 2009

“I had no fear. I thought the bottom of the pool was a lot closer than it was,” remembered Audrey Crawford. The fearless six-year-old slipped in and quickly realized she was in trouble. “I frantically used one hand to try to keep myself afloat. I was waving the other one for help.” Audrey will never forget that day.

A few years ago Audrey Crawford and Abby Burgason learned a life-saving lesson during an American Red Cross Learn-to-Swim class at their community pool in Wickenburg, Arizona. The class is designed to introduce children, ages 4-7, to water skills.

One part of the class focuses on helping someone struggling in the water. The technique involves lying down on your belly, reaching out a hand, talking to the victim, pulling the victim to safety and securing her hand. That lesson stuck with four-year-old Abby. Just a couple of days after learning the rescue technique in the Red Cross class, she used it to save her friend, Audrey.

“I remember seeing Abby's hand through the splashing water so I grabbed it,” says Audrey. “It was really scary.”

“Terrifying” is how Audrey's mother would describe what happened. Glenda Crawford was just a few feet away from the pool, but separated by a fence. She witnessed the rescue. “My heart stopped when I saw Audrey fall in the water,” said Glenda. “I was so amazed when I saw Abby move into action to help. To see such a little person do such a big thing is simply amazing! I am so grateful to Abby.”

Now 12 years old, Abby has a hard time remembering all of the details, but every time she runs into Glenda she gets a big hug and warm thank-you from her friend's mom. “I just helped someone who needed help,” said the modest adolescent.

It didn't take long before everyone in Wickenburg heard the story. Abby was a hero and was presented with a commendation and a bag of lifesavers by the mayor of Wickenburg, and a certificate from her Red Cross instructors.

The girls went on to become strong swimmers. In fact, Audrey wants to swim with dolphins when she grows up. They still talk about what happened and have a clear understanding why having water skills is so important. “Learning to swim has helped me become confident in and around water,” said Abby. “I'm glad I learned at a young age.”

Learning to swim is one layer of protection for water safety. Others include pool barriers, door alarms, proper equipment and supervision. “On top of learning how to swim, everyone should learn how to respond to an emergency. Learning pool safety, CPR and first aid are a big part of our summer programs,” said Tonya Forbrook, Wickenburg recreation coordinator and Red Cross water safety instructor. “Drowning is preventable,” she added. “The Red Cross can teach children and adults how to swim, but everyone has to be responsible around water.”

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.

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