Family advocates water safety after son's drowning

May is National Water Safety Month - a good time to teach your children about the importance of water safety. Drowning is the second leading cause of death in kids aged 1 to 14. It’s what took Kathy Collingsworth’s son, Joshua. Since his death, Kathy and her husband, Blake have been educating children and adults about early childhood water training.

They created a children’ book called “Josh the Baby Otter.”

“It's about having a new baby otter and everybody wants to come; all the other otters want to come see it and the mother was very adamant about he can't go out on his own until he knows how to float,” Kathy Collingsworth explains. “And it goes over the talking about you know - always swimming with a buddy, you know never, go around water unless they're with an adult, so those are the three main messages in the book that we press on.”

“We lost our son Joshua in a drowning in our backyard pool in 2008,” Collingsworth explains. “We had family coming over and we were transitioning between people getting in and out of the pool & coming up and getting Josh some food and I had taken his life preserver off Because he didn't quite know how to swim yet and in that transition between people who are coming in and out and I was up here that he got out of my sight and got away from us so I had kind of called out for him and my mother had come in and was like 'Where is Josh?' And I looked out in the back - I didn't see him I had a few seconds of cutting up his hot dog, looked out in the backyard again, and that's when I saw him, screamed out his name, my brother and his wife are here and they are respiratory therapists and they were able to pull them out of the pool and start CPR right away on him. We had called 911, obviously, right away and he was taken to Lincoln General Hospital to where he was life-flighted to Omaha Children's Hospital and succumbed to his brain injury from drowning 3 days after he drowned.”

Josh was 2 1/2 years old.

“We were preaching you know about layers of protection which are very important - the alarms, the fences, the locks on the door, but we just didn't see very much education to children, and that's what we were losing - we were losing children to this epidemic,” Collingsworth said. “So Blake had this idea to create a children's book - it would get children engaged and staying away from the water unless they were with an adult and always swim with a buddy and, you know, also a message of very much importance of taking infant/toddler water training courses.”

“When we lost Joshua, we realized that in the state of Nebraska there wasn't any infant toddler training courses except for one in Omaha. And it was in a very affluent school, and we thought that you know not just one or 30 children should be able to learn this technique, so we had flown someone in from Phoenix to work with the local YMCA here and developed a program called Float for Life. Float for Life literally teaches children from 6 months to 3 years old to flip on their back when they fall in the pool and kick to the side; the edge of the pool, and to hold their breath. So it's not a, swimming technique, we considered a life skill.”

“I've always said he's working me hard from heaven so I think he's very proud of what his smaller lifespan did but his memory is lasting a lifetime. His impact will be here forever.”

For more information visit: JoshTheOtter.org.



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