Florida's deadliest season for the drowning of young children is upon us. Under the blistering heat of the Florida sunshine, many choose to cool off by taking a dip in the pool or going for a swim in the ocean; but what happens when those children who have not yet learned to swim decide to take that dive? Just this past Sunday a 3-year-old girl in Orange County was found unresponsive after slipping into the swimming pool outside her home. It is for reasons like this, the Miami Heat has teamed up with organizations such as the American Red Cross, Florida Blue, and Fox's Sun Sports over the past 12 years to form the HEAT Learn to Swim community water safety campaign.
Every year, Heat players surprise young kids by attending swimming lessons, and helping teach youngsters the importance of water safety. This year, on July 25th, two-time NBA Champion James Jones surprised the kids at Gibson Park Pool for a day of fun and aqua themed education.
Jones spent some time in the pool playing and swimming with the children, and even assisted with a few swimming lessons as well.
Florida has the highest rate of deaths by drowning in children under the age of 5. "It's tragic," Jones said. "You never want to see anyone, especially a child, lose their life to a water accident." Jones is a Miami native, and says his parents insisted he learn to swim as a young child. "My parents sent me to summer camp at a young age. I was thrust into the water," he said. "In order to play and enjoy the water, we had to take swim lessons. So, it wasn't an option."
Jones also went on to stress the importance of bringing awareness to parents of young children about the importance of water safety, stating, "It's about encouraging the parents and equipping them to be able to equip their children to play safely in and around water."
Also in attendance for the day's events was Heat TV/Sun Sports Courtside Reporter and long time supporter of the HEAT Learn to Swim campaing, Jason Jackson. "The wonderful thing about the Miami Heat Learn to Swim initiative is that for a dozen years the Miami Heat and our partners...all come together to try and fight a terrible trend," said Jackson. "That trend is that Florida, and specifically Miami-Dade County, rank way too high in child fatalities surrounded by water. We have water everywhere, from residential pools, to city pools, to canals, lakes, rivers, and the beautiful beaches... While we want our children to enjoy those things, safety has to be first."
In order to assure that every child receives the same opportunity to learn not only how to swim, but the importance of water safety, the Miami Heat has created a $10 off coupon redeemable for select YMCA and American Red Cross swimming lessons which are available for download at HEAT.com. For more information regarding YMCA and American Red Cross swimming lesson providers or more information about the HEAT Learn to Swim campaign, visit HEAT.com.