YMCA teaches water safety to children

Class participants learn boat safety Thursday, Aug. 5, at Wilber Park. (Kevin Limiti/AllOtsego.com)

YMCA teaches water safety to children

By Kevin Limiti • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA — The Oneonta YMCA, along with the Lyden family and the city of Oneonta’s Wilbur Pool, hosted a four-day, free workshop for kids on how to be safe around the water.

The workshops, which were held between Monday, Aug. 2, and Thursday, Aug. 4, taught children some essential lessons on how to be safe in the water, with the intent of preventing drowning. The history of the workshop has tragic roots, but is a passion that continues to this day.

The segments being offered included learning about pool rules, what to do if a boat capsizes, learning to help rescue someone in the water, how to deal with air pockets and other safety lessons on water safety.
About 80 kids have participated in the program and it also provided on the job training for being a swim instructor.

Stephanie Kozak, head lifeguard, said there was a lifeguard shortage throughout the country and, because of COVID, kids didn’t get swim lessons last year and, possibly as a result, drowning deaths are up.

The Safety Around Water workshop, sponsored by the YMCA, was started eight years ago by Stephen Lyden, who passed away at the age of 20 in January 2015, as a result of drowning. For Kristen Lyden, his mother, doing the water safety workshop is a personal way of carrying on his legacy.

“We wanted to do something to celebrate his life,” Lyden said. “He was very passionate about safety around water, being a lifeguard and working around kids.”

Outside of the pool, there was an activity area that had games and t-shirt decorating in order to “bring in more kids.”

Stephen Lyden was a junior at Hartwick College when he died.

“He had a million nicknames,” Lyden said. “He was Coach Steve, he was Bat Steve.”

Lyden and the group promotional materials said drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for kids age one to four and the second cause of accidental death for kids one to eight.

Lyden and the YMCA officials said they are hosting this program in the hopes of saving lives that could be lost to drowning.

Lyden and everyone involved make sure that everybody can have access to these workshops, regardless of their income.

“We think it’s really, really important for kids to have safety lessons, especially since not everyone has access to a pool,” Lyden said.

Frank Russo, executive director of the Oneonta Family YMCA, said he thought the project was important and doing it was a labor of love for all of the partners involved in the classes.

“It’s one big family that puts this together,” Russo said.

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