Michael Phelps pushes water safety in Peoria

By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer

Photo by Darrell Jackson
Michael Phelps addresses the press before putting on a clinic in honor of the Michael Phelps Foundation’s 10 years of working on water safety Aug. 25 at the Peoria High School pool.

Photo by Darrell Jackson
Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps gives swimming lessons to youths from the Jerry and Helen Wisotsky Boys & Girls Club Aug. 25 at the Peoria High School pool.

Peoria hosted the 10th anniversary of the Michael Phelps Foundation honoring the group’s continued support of water safety Aug. 25 at Peoria High School.

Phelps, who is the most decorated Olympic swimmer of all time with 28 Olympic medals (23 gold medals), discussed the work of his organization in helping teach youths about water safety.

“I am grateful to all our water safety partners and friends at the Boys & Girls Club, as well as the Special Olympics worldwide who are joining us to celebrate this today,” Phelps said. “Over the last 10 years, we have made a huge impact in addressing water safety worldwide.”

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Pool Safely campaign and the Michael Phelps Foundation were honored and recognized 10 years after the passage of the Virginia Graeme Baker (VGB) Pool & Spa Safety Act.

The VGB, signed into law by President George W. Bush, mandated the creation of a public education campaign, Pool Safely.

“Since the passing of the (VGB), there have been zero drain entrapment-related deaths involving children in public pools and spas over the past 10 years,” acting Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Ann Marie Buerkle said. “By working together with the Michael Phelps Foundation, we will combat the public health crisis of fatal child drownings.”

The event showcased water safety, as well as reminding families and community members the importance of staying safer in and around pools and all water, as well as showcasing the IM Program, which teaches participants to be comfortable in and around water, advance their swimming skills, set and attain personal goals, and have good overall health by improving participants’ water skills and confidence. The city of Peoria has offered the program for years and Mayor Cathy Carlat shared how the city has made water safety a top priority in public service.

“By working with our partners at the Peoria Unified School District, we proudly serve the city with three pools on public school campuses,” Carlat said. “At these, we have offered swim lessons to citizens for decades, and each season, it is amazing to know the impact this has had on our children and adults.”

The group announced that the program had reached more than 22,000 children and young adults worldwide, including more than 1,000 youths in Peoria alone this summer.

“We launched the IM program with the (Jerry and Helen Wisotsky) Boys & Girls Club, Metro Phoenix and the city of Peoria, and this summer, we reached that number of kids in one summer, and that is a massive number,” Phelps said. “I am grateful to all our water safety partners and friends with the Boys & Girls Club and Special Olympics who are all here with us to celebrate these numbers.”

Melissa Sutton, president of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona (DPCA) and the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, also praised local and national water safety efforts while reinforcing the urgency of the issue.

“This is why we name August water safety month, because the higher temperatures make all water more inviting to everyone,” Sutton said. “As of the end of July, Arizona has responded to 105 water-related incidents this year that we know of. Since the start of August alone, we have 35 total fatalities with 11 pediatrics, one child, one teenager and 22 adults.”

Following the press conference, the organizations convened a water safety event that included a swimming lesson with children from the city of Peoria, Jerry and Helen Wisotsky Boys & Girls Club and Special Olympics with a swim stroke clinic.

Phelps was joined in the water with a group of children by Cathy Bennett, program director for the Michael Phelps Foundation and the instructor who first taught Phelps how to swim. World champion swimmer and Michael Phelps Foundation Advisory Council Member Allison Schmitt led in-water activities that highlighted the IM program.

Phelps said it is important for everyone who gets in the water to be aware of everything around them.

“The biggest thing is when a kid is new to the water is finding a way to make them comfortable,” Phelps said. “Believe it or not, I was afraid to put my face under water when I was younger and, if you look at my 2-year-old son, he is the complete opposite and he wants to see under the water to see the fishes.”

Peoria officials praised the IM program and all the assistance they have gotten from it.

“We are grateful to the works of the Michael Phelps Foundation and the (DPCA) and we are honored to collaborate with both organizations, as well as the Boys & Girls Club this year to work to equip all our kids with vital water safety skills,” Carlat said.

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Peoria Times

Peoria Times
7122 N. 59th Ave
Glendale, AZ 85301-2436
Ph: (623) 842-6000
Fax: (623) 842-6013

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