Texas ranks second in the country for unintentional drownings in young children, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. New numbers show 36 children younger than 15-years-old died from drowning in 2012.
The CPSC study also shows private pools or spas were involved in about 85 percent of drownings in children under 5 in 2012.
Misty and Cris Vento, of Coppell, know that heartbreak. Their 4-year-old son, Xander, died last summer trying to save a friend having trouble in the water while playing in a neighborhood pool in Fort Worth.
"Xander was holding Emily up out of the water," recalls Misty Vento. "I think his first instinct was to help her, even though he was struggling. We started CPR. Pulled him out, but his tummy was full. He'd taken in so much water, that it took a long time to get a heart beat."
The 3-year-old friend lived, but not Xander. Within a few days, though, he was saving lives again through organ donation.
"Even though we lost our son, it happened for a reason greater than we are aware of. And a lot of those reasons were evident once he passed. He saved lives through organ and tissue donation," explained Cris Vento.
Sharing Xander's story got Misty involved in the new Fort Worth Drowning Prevention Coalition (FWDPC). Local swim club members came up with the program after Xander's death last summer. The group includes numerous agencies from the city's fire and parks departments to hospitals to the USA Swimming Foundation.
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This is not a swim class, this is a drowning prevention class. Volunteers will take these lessons to neighborhood pools across the city.
Julie Jackson is a master swimmer/instructor teaching the adult volunteers the lessons children should learn.
"What we're trying to do is give them simple steps for how to rescue themselves. If they're in a situation where they're uncomfortable, bouncing off bottom of the pool or turning on their back or tummy, teach them to come to the side to so they can maneuver themselves around the pool to save themselves," explained Jackson.
The 4-week Safe Swim program consists of eight classes. It costs $5 per student and in return for attending all eight classes, the student will get a Coast Guard approved life jacket. The coalition hopes to have scholarships for families who can't afford the fee.
The Safe Swim lessons will be offered at the Eastside YMCA in June. The FWDPC hopes to teach water safety skills to 1,000 parents and caregivers and enroll 200 at-risk students in water safety and swim instruction.
While instructors and children are in the pool learning to be comfortable in the water, float and tread water, firefighters will teach adults about water rescue, safety barriers and hands-only CPR.
Xander Vento couldn't save himself that fateful day, but FWDPC and his parents hope his story can make the difference for other children.
Learn more at www.fwdcp.info or request a speaker by calling 817-392-6862 or emailing Fire.Safety@fortworthtexas.gov. Or, contact Pam Cannel with the FWDPC at 817-994-1984, email: email@example.com.