Foundation teaches survival skills

By any standards, this is a success. In the past six weeks, three instructors and 49 kids have been schooled in the swim-float-survive technique in the Florida Keys.

“My daughter is now a mermaid,” said Carrie Silverman of Marathon. “We’re already working on strokes and learning how to use a snorkel.”

Indeed, little Dylan, 4, was cavorting around the pool. Mom said she wasn’t exactly scared of the water before starting the class, but …

“We moved here at the end of December. Our backyard is the water. All of the backyards are water. God forbid she falls in the water when I’m not there, but now she can save herself.”

The classes are immersion therapy (pun intended): six weeks, four days a week, 10 minutes at a time for babies six months and up. The goal is to teach them how to roll on their backs to breathe. Some, like Dylan, take to it very fast.

Sarah Collier enrolled both her children — 3-year-old Evan and 9-month-old Emily.

“My son was very cautious around the pool, so this built his confidence. Now he can swim,” Sarah said. “And Emily wants to float. During lessons, she’s tense. But at home, with just her grandmothers in the pool, she laughs and smiles. We’ve seen lots of progress.”

Andrea Thompson is the founder of the Florida Keys Drowning Prevention Task Force, and the captain of EMS and Trauma Star for Monroe County Fire Rescue. She said this session filled up in just hours, and she is already planning the next, with the goal to teach the life-saving technique to another 50 Keys kids.

Classes were taught at the Hyatt pool in Marathon and the Martin Luther King pool in Key West. (Marathon does not have a public pool, so the nonprofit has accepted the generous offer of the use of the resort pool.)

For more information, visit The goal is to teach 80 to 100 children swim survival lessons each year.

The next Keys2Swim lessons will begin June 14 and enrollment will open in the next few days. Keys2Swim is also offering parents a free, condensed class on life-saving skills. It will cover CPR, first aid, AED (Automated External Defibrillator) use, and “stop the bleed” information. The class will be about two hours long.

Sara Matthis
Sara Matthis
Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.

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