Speaker 0 00:00:04 Welcome to the NDPA water safety podcast, where we learn about people's water safety story. And now your host, Adam <inaudible> and Laura Metro.
Speaker 1 00:00:16 All right. Welcome back to another episode of the NDPA water safety podcast. I'm Adam catch Marty, the executive director of NDPA and as always so happy to be joined by my esteemed cohost, Laura Metro, how you doing Laura?
Speaker 2 00:00:34 Hi there. I'm Laura Metro, and I'm glad to be here today. Thank you so much, Adam. Always happy to see you.
Speaker 1 00:00:40 Yeah. Happy to hear you and see you as well. Laura, it's always great. Um, you know, I'm hoping one day we can record the podcast like you and I being in the same place, but I think that's only going to happen a couple times a year. Um, the conference, yeah, the conference, or I've got to, uh, move out of Western Pennsylvania in that little, uh, you know, black hole that I live in. Um, you know, working on that for a while. We, we have been working on that for a while. So Laura, um, you know, we started, um, you know, a couple of weeks ago really diving into what P what are people's water safety stories. And, um, you know, we've had some great stories shared so far on the podcast, Beth root, um, talked about world's largest swim lesson and how that developed. We just heard from Alyssa Mangrum last week.
Speaker 1 00:01:25 Um, and her story of getting involved in water safety and especially with Colin's hope and today, um, I think this is a really, uh, great water safety story. Um, cause it's, it's, it is really a powerful story, but also as a direct connection to the NDPA and that's, um, Blake calling spots. Um, so we're going to be interviewing here in a moment. Um, you know, Blake and his wife, Kathy lost their son Joshua. Um, I believe back in 2008 and, uh, starting to Joshua Collins worth Memorial foundation, um, and both Blake and Kathy have committed themselves to water safety over the last decade, longer than a decade now. Um, and Blake has, um, been serving on the board of NDPA, um, for, uh, almost a decade now. And, um, you know, their commitment to water safety is, is really second to none. Um, so, uh, really excited to hear from Blake and, uh, just hear, you know, a little bit about what drives him to be involved in water safety. So I'm going to go ahead and add Blake in areas. How are you Blake? Thank you. Hi Blake. How are you? Um, well, Blake, thank you for taking the time to join us today and, um, share your water safety story. Um, so Blake, I'm going to give you the floor and if, if you don't mind giving us a little bit of details on, um, uh, on Joshua's drowning and, um, you know, what your driving force was to start the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial foundation.
Speaker 3 00:02:58 Okay. So ironically, you're talking to me today and it is the 13th anniversary of the day. We, uh, Joshua drown in our backyard pool and it was, um, you know, we were having a big family get together. We'd only been in the house for a few years and, um, we had people coming and going. They were enjoying the pool, the backyard, and some had been there earlier in the morning and more were coming over some left to go get food. You're going to barbecue a little later. And it was just Kathy and Joshua and I in the backyard pool. And I decided I wanted to actually go get a camera. And this is 13 years ago before cameras were irrelevant on phones, even at that day. And I left a night, I went out and I said, I looked around, I couldn't find the camera.
Speaker 3 00:03:55 So I called up, called out to Kathy and I said, I can't find the camera. I'm going to go ahead and get out of the pool for now. And so I said, that's okay. Cause I've got to start getting food ready, my, you know, start preparing stuff as well for people coming over to barbecue. And she got Joshua out of the pool and he was in the basement and the play area in the basement. And I ended up going into my office to do a couple things in the front of the house. And shortly thereafter, my brother-in-law is coming in the front door with his daughter who has cerebral palsy. I helped him bring the wheelchair in with her. And, um, I stepped into my office and I heard Kathy say, Blake, have you seen Joshua? And it just, I don't know when you hear that as a parent, your heart drops and you swallow hard.
Speaker 3 00:04:42 Cause it, it just means something's not quite right. And 30 seconds later, or just seconds later, I heard this scream and I, for some reason it was, it was the blood blood curdling scream. So I started heading out the office door and for some reason I started heading toward the back of the house and I was heading down the stairs and she was about ready to run me over. She had seen Joshua in the pool floating face down. And so I'm heading out the door she's right behind me. And then my brother-in-law was right behind us. All three of us, Kathy jumped in the water, but my brother-in-law and I were able to reach, uh, Joshua literally by the side of the pool. And we pulled them out. My brother-in-law and his wife, my sister-in-law were both medically trained. So they started CPR on him right away.
Speaker 3 00:05:38 We took them into the basement and started CPR on him. And he asked he aspirated fairly soon. And you know, then I'm thinking, okay, all this water has come out. He's going to start crying. And you know, that's kind of what year, you know, how, how everything always comes across and movies and different things that, and, oh, you can cop out the water and then you're going to wake up that type of thing. But he didn't, um, yeah, you kept doing CPR until the paramedics arrived, which seemed like quite a while. And Kathy rode in the ambulance with him to the hospital. And I followed him in my car and a couple of family members. And when we arrived at the hospital, we're standing outside the emergency room and the doctor came out and said, we, we have his heart beating he's on a respirator.
Speaker 3 00:06:29 And, uh, we think we can, he can get better help in Omaha, Omaha children's hospital. So they said, we went to life, flight him to Omaha, and we asked if Cathy could fly with them. And of course, Kathy was why in a state of state of mind disarray. And they said, if she can compose herself, she can ride with us. But you know, she's got to gotta be able to hold herself together because we're flying in the helicopter. So she flew up to Oman and it's about an hour drive for me. So I was driving up and yeah, and I was, you know, I just, I didn't think that this was going to end poorly. I felt like he had his heart beating and that it was interesting because this was virtually six months after his regular birthday. And I, I told them person that was with me, we're going to have to have two birthdays for Joshua.
Speaker 3 00:07:24 Well that his birthday on the end of November, and then we'll have him on the, on the 1st of June, because this was so scary and he's back with us now. But when I walked into the pediatric ICU at children's hospital in Omaha and Kathy was laying in the bed next to Joshua, the doctor came out and I said, Hey doc, how how's he doing? And he just kind of looked at me. It was a somber look on his face. Um, not good. There's really no hope. And which knocked me off my feet because I had all these, um, the idea that everything was going to be fine. And I said, how do you, so how do you make that statement? How do you know when he goes wags examined? And you know, I didn't even really know what that meant your mind doesn't really catch up with what's going on.
Speaker 3 00:08:14 And I knew, yeah, I never w I never had to speak to that doctor again. And I asked the other doctors not to, because I felt like his bedside manner was pretty poor. I didn't think that's the way that you told, uh, bother that their son was not going to make it. Um, so the, yeah, the doctors that were there were great. The whole staff was really great at the hospital, but they, uh, the head of the pediatric ICU and the neurosurgeon, and there had a lot of doctors coming in and doing all sorts of tests with Joshua. And over the course of the next few days, they basically told us that he, his brain was so severely damaged from the lack of oxygen. Only for those few minutes that he would never be Joshua. Again, they could keep him, keep him alive, indefinitely on, on life support, but that wasn't going to be a quality of life that was going to be good for Joshua.
Speaker 3 00:09:10 So we had to make a decision as a family and visit to determine what was the best course of action. And they recommended that we take him up his life support. If he came around, then that would be a wonderful miracle, but likely, um, it would not be a good outcome. So we, we then didn't call ask them to call the Oregon transplant association in Nebraska. And we, uh, made arrangements that after he, after he would pass that we would try to help other kids. That's where we started out, just trying to get something good to come out of the whole situation. So, um, Wednesday, Sunday was the first, uh, 13 years ago. And, um, uh, the fourth on Wednesday, we took him off life support and we held him in our arms and 45 minutes later, he passed away. Uh, he still only just started fading his brain function.
Speaker 3 00:10:10 Wasn't strong enough to keep his vital organs moving. And so he just peacefully passed away in arms about 45 minutes later. And so we, the whole family basically was there with us in the ICU and they carry Joshua off to store transplant for harvesting organ harvesting. And we all just got into our cars to drive home. And I remember I just, it, you know, you're in such a fog and something like that happens. And I remember this was late at night when we got home the next morning I went out and I looked at the damn pool and tried to figure out what the hell happened to it that day. We have a vinyl cover over our pool. We're in Nebraska. So you can walk across the top of it. We have fencing, we had, um, high locks on the doors. We had, uh, we had a security camera in place.
Speaker 3 00:11:08 It wasn't working at that time. It was one that streaming through the television, but it wasn't working at that time. Then I'm old enough back then that it wasn't as sophisticated as today. But, um, you know, I didn't, I thought that we were doing everything that we're supposed to do when Joshua was with us. He was in the water. He had a life jacket on we'd started swim lessons, but he had, he only had a couple basically at that point. And so, you know, I think in some respects, you as a parent create a false sense of security when you put a bunch of layers of protection in place, and, you know, we need to stay diligent as parents. But I, once I started doing a little bit of research online and I found out the one cause of unintentional death, the children one to four is drowning.
Speaker 3 00:11:57 And it's the second leading cause of unintentional to all adolescents under 14, I was, I was blown away. I, cause I, I was upset that I didn't know that I knew water was dangerous. I mean, that's why we had a vinyl cover. That's why he was in a life jacket when we were with him in the water. I mean, I knew water was dangerous, it's it just happened so fast. Um, that we as a society have to be more diligent than we even are. And so it, it just, it infuriated me. I felt like I was the dad and I, I just, I let the family down. I let my son down cause I have, I've always think of the dad is the protector. And you know, I just, I feel like I missed, I did miss something that day. There was the cover could have been put back on, but there was a transition.
Speaker 3 00:12:49 People were getting ready to get right back into the pool and you relax, you let your guard down. And toddlers are so fast and they're they're explorers. They're, you know, they, they wanna, they wanna check things out from what I can tell that day, I think Joshua tried to, he, he got outside and he saw his older brother's water gun. One of was big water gun and his older brother never let them play with it when he was around. So there was nobody around and he saw an opportunity to get to play with a water gun. And I believe he tried to fill it up and, and fell in the side of the pool and did not have the skills available at that time because we hadn't taught him enough yet to understand you hold your breath and you, you know, and reach for the side of the pool, whatever circumstance.
Speaker 3 00:13:37 And he probably just panicked and took in water and that's when the tragedy arises. So, um, I spent, you know, we spent a while talking about what happened to us and as a family, even sitting around, how can we make a difference and what can we do? And originally we even started out by saying, you know, maybe if we had had an AED by the side of the pool, that that could have made a difference quicker, um, some of the different other things that you can do, I looked in to see if there was other type of pool alarms and different things out there that could have affected the outcome of this. And one thing that I started when I was looking around and I started realizing is we're spending, we always spend a lot of time talking to parents about the being diligent around the water, which we need to continue to do.
Speaker 3 00:14:30 And we need to create more layers of protection. There's Mike, in my opinion, there's never enough. Layers of protection, never rely on one, never rely on five or six, you know, whatever the case may be. But it really struck me that if this is the number one, cause why aren't we talking to kids more than we were, uh, at that time. And you know, we talked to kids about stranger danger. We talked to them about, uh, always having your seatbelt on. We talked to him about looking both ways before you cross the street. Uh, don't talk to strangers, hold my hand in a busy parking lot. Everything that we do as parents to try to keep our children safe. We're talking to them as they're growing up and, and educating them on how to be safe. And, and it was interesting to me that this is the number one cause, and we're not talking about it.
Speaker 3 00:15:21 Why aren't we, why isn't this? The number one thing we talk about, uh, rather than stop, drop and roll, you know, um, I, I can't say in my entire life I've ever known a child that's caught on fire that had to stop, drop and roll. I'm sure it's happened, but this is the number one cause of unintentional death. The children is drowning and we're not having that conversation. That water is fun. And we all, we all want to be around water. We all enjoy it. It's recreational. We have to bathe, you know, everything about water. It's, it's, it's a natural part of our life that has to be there. Then why aren't we talking to kids about it? And that's, that's when I said, how, how do we talk to kids about it? You can't just sit around the dining room table and go, whoa, ho by the way, just don't go around water unless you get mom and dad or grandma and grandpa.
Speaker 3 00:16:09 And I, I knew with Joshua and his older brother, Connor, how much they loved the characters and they listened to characters more than they do their parents. So more than anybody. So I said, you know, I think we should create a character that children would look up to that they enjoy and they can, um, emulate. And I started getting online and I looked in a little bit trying to figure out what's the best character that might really apply to this. And when I saw otters and there was one cute video of that two otters holding hands, holding paws, basically, and floating on their back and it just made it to me. It just made perfect sense. Otters are born in a den and their moms dragged them into the water to teach them how to swim. Um, and kid kids go to children's zoos and their faces are plastered up against the plexiglass, watching those otters swim and have fun.
Speaker 3 00:17:04 And so it's just a great character. And so we started writing a book, Josh, the baby Otter, and it's a story about a baby Otter. Who's learning how to float from her mom, right out of the right out of the dam and how two other auditors come along and want to be as friends. And, uh, Claire Josh's mom says, yep. Love to have him have swimming buddies as soon as he's ready, but he's not ready yet. And until you're a good swimmer, uh, you'll always swim with a buddy. Once you become a good swimmer and you never go around water, unless you get an adult with you. And that's the basic story and message that we wanted to get across. Cause I truly believe, uh, Joshua was really wanting and to please us, he was, he was not a disobey or, um, like a lot of kids, a lot of kids are daredevils and things like that, that wasn't Joshua's personality.
Speaker 3 00:18:01 And I really believe I would have just said, Hey, Joshua, you know, this is not where you go by yourself. This is a family place. And a family place means you never do it alone. So if you want to, if you want to go out there, come grab me by my hand and say, Hey dad, I want to go out there and film Connor's water gun. Cause he's not around or grandma or grandpa or, uh, the babysitter, whatever the case may be, that, that I believe he would have listened to a message like that. And I believe that the, you know, having a character that would, he could look up to can help drive that message home. So we started writing the book and literally by that fall, we had a thousand test copies, printed, I guess you'd call them. And, uh, and we, um, we said, okay, so we wrote this book, it's cute.
Speaker 3 00:18:53 It starts introducing the conversation on water safety to children right away. Uh, as soon as they can understand that message, how do we get it out? You know, okay. Try to put it on Amazon. You can have it at Barnes and noble. How much of an impact are you going to have with that? And surprisingly enough, I had got online and I saw the NDPA and I started doing some research about what the national drowning prevention Alliance was. And I was very impressed and I saw that they were going to do a conference in April, 2009 in Miami. So I said to, I got on and I joined online and I said to Kathy, I said, we got to go to Miami, uh, in April next year. And we got to show him this book and see what they think of our idea and maybe how they can help us. And it was pretty tough for Kathy. I should say that because it hadn't even been a year yet, but we went down to Miami and met a wonderful group of people at the NDPA. And, um, from there it's kind of history is how we've.
Speaker 3 00:20:06 Yeah, that NDPA is our family. It's, um, you know, uh, a huge group of people that have the same passion as Kathy and I do that. We, we need to take this, uh, tragic statistic and move it way up the scale. It can't, it, it needs to be way, way up the scale far. The number one I'd like to eliminate it, but it's kind of, you know, that might be a pipe dream, but you know, no family should have to go through what families do go through when they lose somebody to drowning. Cause drowning is preventable and you just need to start diligently everything we can, uh, to put those barriers in place. And we believe we're part of a small, a big puzzle. And we believe that the perp we are is just one little piece and we hope what we're doing is introducing the conversation in a fun way.
Speaker 3 00:21:06 And then as we build on that conversation, all the other things that can fill in around it will, and we hope that, you know, what we're doing is we're creating a generational change in the way that people think and behave around water, just like generationally we've changed on seatbelt generationally. We've changed on cigarette. I mean, it does happen and it can happen and we need to do the same thing with water safety. So we can start kids as early as possible to where it becomes second nature for them to have a better attitude, a better respect for the water, right out of the shoot. Then as they grow up and eventually when they had their own children, it's part of what they do. And they talk about, so yes, that that's our dream and our intent. And, you know, 13 years later, we do feel like we're, we're, we're hearing older children that have heard this message when they were four or five, and they're now 10, 11, 12, and they're lecturing their little brothers and sisters, how to behave around the water and not to get too close. So when you hear that, you know, you're, you know, that's the type of impact that we were hoping for and we want to continue to grow and expand on,
Speaker 2 00:22:20 You know, um, like I heard some resonated I've, you know, obviously we're very close friends and we've been through this and I, of course I've, you know, heard Joshua's story and memorized Joshua's story. But, you know, I think today being the day, you focus a lot in, on those first moments in that first day. And I resonated and really, um, so much of the same thing was, you know, it was the same process that we went through with clays and sort of that fog you talked about and then, you know, getting there, but it was the aftermath that I really, um, grabbed onto, which is that first feeling of, of, I didn't know. And if that's something that if you're listening, that is something that is just something that's pervasive across the entire water safety drowning prevention industry is, I didn't know. And it's the worst words any of us here is, cause we know exactly what they mean and it's not negligence.
Speaker 2 00:23:18 It's not anything like that. It's just simply, you simply didn't know. And for me, I was also driven by the fact that I didn't know CPR. So someone else did something that they did, you know, did CPR, what they'd seen on TV, but I too then sort of went into that rabbit hole of research and then very quickly realize the same thing you did. Like, oh my God, this is the number one hit. Like, what are you talking about? You know, being a neurotic mother. Um, you know, and I used to, I used to joke around and say, it could rival any fireman in a car seat installation. Like don't even try me. And you know, really my friend Mindy would say, Laura has parking society. Don't even go to the park with her. Just, just don't she just, you know, but it never occurred to me.
Speaker 2 00:24:07 My family was around water, my entire life, both open water, closed water, everything. And it was not something I was afraid of or worried of. But your story also brings up a few other parts, which is that classic of when everybody's watching and nobody's watching, that's what happened with clay as well. You know, somebody else thought that that one person thought, uh, his wife had clay. She thought her husband had clay, you know? And so it's often, and the other piece I was thinking, because I write down sort of future topics is also that you were talking about transitions, you know, transitions in hospitals are also the greatest time for error in hospitals, whether it's medication error or things like that. And you were talking about this transition between being with him and then Kathy getting the food ready. You know, that's another, you know, if we're talking about not never having enough layers of protection, you know, we can also talk about certain points in time that can be a lapse that just are natural. Right. And that's, you know, so many things that I resonated with through your story, um, and looking at, uh, digging even deeper on that versus just these layers of protection, providing a false insecurity, but maybe also talking a little bit about, uh, specific times, you know, that we're noticing as a trend could be, you know, like we say, the con the comment when everybody's watching, nobody's watching, but what that really is, is a transition, you know, that's occurring at some point.
Speaker 1 00:25:35 You know, one thing that I think we have to bring up here is that's something that happens every single day with young children and families. It's not like this is some, you know, negligent lapse in supervision that, you know, went for, you know, multiple hours. And, um, you know, this is, and I'll just throw it out there. I mean, I, I am my role with NDPA. I, um, I'm often times that first person in drowning prevention that a family who's lost a child is talking to. And that is the number one thing I hear. I didn't know. I started looking at the statistics and I'm appalled disgusted that I wasn't told that there's not more attention on this. And the pediatrician didn't have the conversation with me. Um, and you know, Blake, one thing I have to throw out that, you know, I've been doing this work, and I think I met you fairly early on when I first was coming into the water safety community.
Speaker 1 00:26:32 I think that was just your second in DPA conference when you and I got introduced in 2010, and I remember early on you and I had a conversation about how do you know, who should we educating? And, you know, I think for so long, we were focused and still are focused on educating the parents. So we, we don't hear that. I didn't know phrase, but you were the first person that triggered with me. We are missing educating the children and empowering the children. Um, you know, and I think we always have empowered and looked at empowering children once they're out of that high risk category in that one to four year old range, we start educating children about safety kindergarten, first grade, second grade. And it's a core piece of their education, but just what you just said, being able to stop and say, this is not a place you go without a family member without mom or dad.
Speaker 2 00:27:25 And you know what, Adam, it's true when you add up to it's the rapid development that happens between the, at those ages. Also, you're talking about things happen every day. I mean, to be quite honest, we learned clay could walk or crawl when he fell down the stairs. Literally he toppled down the stairs. How did he get there? I mean, it wasn't that we weren't watching. He, you know, you, a lot of times you hear that same story of like, he had never been able to open the door before, you know, and the kids rapidly move through their growth stages. And it's usually, you know, to our surprise, we don't know, they don't give us a memo. Hey, by the way, today, I'm going to start walking today. I'm going to be just tall enough to hit that, that door knob to the basement. You know, you don't get a memo from them. So as they go through these rapid stages from zero to four, that's the other piece of this is that when you get comfortable at times with where they are at the moment, and then they just, they change, but you're not getting the memo that they're going to be able to do something new that day. You know, it just kind of happens.
Speaker 3 00:28:25 I like I tell a story all the time about Joshua specifically, he was about, I would say it was 16 to 18 months old and he, Kathy and I were sitting there and he reached over and he pulled on the cat's tail. I think it was. And it was interesting cause it hurt the cat. And so Kathy and I both simultaneously said Joshua, and we said it loud enough, it kind of startled him. And he, his lower lip dropped and his shoulders dropped and he turned any marched himself and put his nose in the corner. And I looked at Kathy and I said, have you put him in time out yet? And put him in the corner like that? And she goes, no of you. And I said, no. And it dawned on us. She'd seen what consequences were his older brother when his older brother did something wrong.
Speaker 3 00:29:14 He got put in time out. And so here you had a child that understood at that age, what was right and what was wrong and what the consequences were to that. And I tell that story all the time, because you never know they're, they're that smart. And they pick up on stuff. So there is no magic time when you start saying, Hey, this is what you should learn. We don't wait to tell them until they're five or six, don't touch that stove. It's hot. Um, we're, we're constantly doing that with children because we need that. We need it to sink in. The other thing I tell parents is, do you really truly expect that once you're a young teenager or adolescent is offered their first cigarette or maybe their first drink, that you're going to be fortunate enough to stand, be standing next to them, to tell them why that's wrong.
Speaker 3 00:30:02 You're not. So why, so what do parents do? They start way before that, before it ever happens, they start educating them. You don't want to smoke. You don't want to drink, you know, all these different things and they're not doing it because it's being handed to them. They're doing it because that's how you educate kids. You start with them and you move up, move along, down that line to keep them safe. So don't expect to say, well, I'm going to be in the water with my kids because that's not when typically the problem happens. So you can start before that happens by saying, this is why you don't want to go water by yourself. This is what you know. And it resonates with people that we have this just, you know, it's not that difficult, something so simple with Joshua literally could have saved his life.
Speaker 3 00:30:45 And what's really interesting is you are empowering the child. Um, and that's the other thing that I think we truly missed out on, which I didn't understand in Nebraska. It's not as prevalent. And that's getting in your child into the water earlier than four years old, back in 13 years ago, pediatrician said four years old is when you start swim lessons because that's when they're physically capable. That's when their muscles work properly and stuff. And we do now know that there are courses out there that at least teach children a basic understanding that if they go in the water, they hold their breath. They don't take in water and they can literally flip on their back like an Otter, which is kind of a nice little, you know, added benefit of Josh the honor. But if they fall in the side of the pool, which is typical and they hold their breath, they don't take in water and they can float up.
Speaker 3 00:31:36 They can reach for the side of the pool or they made cry out. It gives children have gone for a few moments typically, and it could give them that few extra moments to cry out or for the parent to understand. Then that's what you know, that could save their life. And so the other thing that I, we don't have one person in the state of Nebraska teaching those classes 13 years, and now they're all over, right? We were very supportive and drivers of teaching children in a kind and gentle way, how to hold their breath and float on their back. And it doesn't have to happen in two or three lessons. It can happen over time, children crawl and then they walk. They should back float, learn how to back float and hold their breath. And then they learn to swim. It's a progression just like growling and walking. I think they should get into the water. As soon as a parent thinks they're comfortable and know that it's the first starting process of them becoming a good swimmer, which is the one sport that could save their life.
Speaker 1 00:32:39 Well, like I know this is very personal to you and Kathy, because, and I want you to bring this in, um, and talk a little bit about your float for life program. Um, because it's not just, you know, Josh, the Otter and the storybook and Otter spotter day, um, it's, you know, you actually put this in place. So there's a place in Lincoln where families in your community can go and their children can learn these skills.
Speaker 3 00:33:08 Yeah, because when we, when we started looking around in Lincoln, there wasn't anybody doing it. So we went to our local YMCAs and we said, this is, this is wrong. We need to have these classes here in, in Lincoln. We didn't, and we knew it needed to be at a facility. So we said, we want to partner with the YMCAs. We granted them $10,000. One of the first things we did literally when we started the foundation and they brought in an instructor, they were lucky enough to have an instructor working there that was from Arizona. And she had taught this technique before. So we scholarship them and help them teach the aquatics director of the technique and a couple other they're long time lifeguards. And you know, what's funny is that we didn't, we haven't really created a curriculum. That's not the point of why I created float for life, the name and just the, to become something like the MDPA, to be honest with you, except for, to be a catalyst to where parents can learn what this is.
Speaker 3 00:34:12 And, but in toddler water training is what we call it for a generic statement and then help parents connect with those people that teach these courses. Also ask them to be diligent, to go watch the courses, talk to other parents that have had their children's in the courses to know that the child had been comfortable, how the results are. I mean, it's not something that you rubber stamp by any stretch, but also w what I was finding when there's so many different instructors out there that are teaching this technique that, you know, eventually move on to regular swim stroke or whatever, but we're not able, there's nearly nobody connecting all those people. Um, unless you get one, let's say chain or a franchise that teaches, but they're not advertising the whole, uh, concept. And that's what we cared about. We feel like every child should get in the water as soon as they possibly can, because everybody should learn to swim.
Speaker 3 00:35:07 And the sooner you can learn to swim and it's healthy enough for the child and they're capable of learning, uh, waiting until they're five or six is not really the best answer if you're losing them at two and a half and three hours old. So we not only, um, we not only teach, teach children in Lincoln, we have instructors come in from around the country and work in our Priscilla day. And then they take that technique home and they train other instructors in their pools. And so we're asking what we is, these regular, regular swim schools, you know, quote unquote, to expand their lesson plan, to start teaching children this technique early on. And they're. So these instructors are very talented people that, you know, they teach WSI or whatever, standardized swim, uh, instructional methods out there. This is a little different, and it's not overly difficult to learn. Most of them, you just need a loving, caring adult that wants to work with these children and help them to get in the right position. They should hold their breath and understand and get them through this process. And the fun part about it is we hear kids that are going into classes and saying, I want to be, I want to be like Josh's daughter. I want to learn to float away that like Joshy hotter. That's awesome. That's
Speaker 2 00:36:23 What I was going to bring up to you, Blake, is that your message, which is so important. And I think this is something that was a big deal. Um, his parents didn't want to scare their kids and here was this scary message, right? They also didn't want to scare their kids away from the water. So one of the, you know, most important things I think about the Josh, the outer message is this gentle easy way to communicate this message. And, you know, I did some things for CPR too, and there are ways that you can phrase things that are not scary to the kids, but gives them enough of an understanding. So they are go, they're going about this in a way that's safe, but they are not scared of it. And they understand, you know, they want versus they don't think more like I'm going to die.
Speaker 2 00:37:10 If I go in the water, they're thinking I want to be like Josh and Josh told me not to swim without a buddy. And so I'm going to go find my buddy Austin or my buddy, and I'm going to swim at that, buddy. They're not thinking I'm going to die. You know, so, you know, for parents understand that. And also, um, I think it's important to mention too. There are lots of different types of swim, curriculums, lessons and things out there. And parents need to just take a look at what they think is best. They might've only been exposed to one thing. They might've only been exposed to one way, or maybe their friend did something, you know, really, you know, extreme or something. There's all different types of children with all different types of temperaments and there's different types of swim lessons. And then of course, we share the love for our friend Kelly, who, you know, a woman named Kelly Rogers, who came and she's been training over at, um, float for life and at their center in Lincoln.
Speaker 2 00:38:11 And for those of you listening again, this is sort of how the water safety community works together and partners together and learns from each other and shares each other's really solid resources. But Kelly was the person I called to help train clay. And she called somebody in from Florida. And the two dealt with kids that had trauma with this and, and, and did that. And then through me, Kelly met their whole rest of this community and, and has become very embedded in this community. And, you know, it's really us sharing. Like you said, it's not that hard to learn. Some of these things are sharing these proven methodologies. I can't even tell you how many people I've told about John theater. I can't even tell you how many parents, grandparents I've given the Josh the book away to, it's the easiest thing in the world to hand to somebody, you know, did he say here's a gr a great start and it's not scary. And it's a nice little message that you're sitting there at night and just reading to your child. And it's not scary. I think it's a really important point to make for parents listening.
Speaker 3 00:39:16 The other thing that's really interesting, sorry, Adam is, um, I, you know, for many years, the pool industry as wanting to avoid this conversation, cause they're afraid at the scare tactic and that's all we're going to do is try to scare people away from water. And it's, like I said, in the very beginning, we're not going to get away from water outside that fenced in pool, in our backyard, we live on a golf course. It has about 30 water features and those water features have frogs. They have dragonflies, they have rocks to throw in the water. There are, we're always going to be around water and, you know, we can fence in pools and do all those types of things, but it's water in general, it's it is lakes. It is a farm pond. It is detention cells in new construction subdivisions. Now, uh, after a heavy rain they're full of water.
Speaker 3 00:40:04 So, um, we have to teach these children both mentally. What's important about being in and around water. And then also I believe it's the physical side and we need to empower children as much as we possibly can. And that's what our goal, I, you know, I totally agree that we need to keep working with adults. I now me, when I'm around water, all I do is sit there and count heads. All I do is watch it, cause I do know what can happen and I wish every adult would be that way, but I don't want them to have to go through what I went through to become that way. So if we can get them to understand it before that that's what's important.
Speaker 1 00:40:43 Well, and I, I want to hit on spreading that message Blake, because one thing that Josh, the Otter and GCMS have done so well is really amplifying your message. And I think you guys did a very unique thing in using the rotary network. So I was wondering if you could talk just a moment, how you establish that relationship and really how that has helped amplify the messaging the J CMF is trying to accomplish
Speaker 3 00:41:11 Well, that ties back to that first, uh, NDPA conference. We went to it in Miami and we were at the hotel in the hotel lobby and we had Ashley Spitznagel or pretty young woman redhead that does all our illustrations and illustrated the book. She, she wanted to come with us and then Kathy and I were there and this great, uh, gentlemen, retired rear Admiral from the coast guard was there to work with the NDPA. And he said, I've just retired from the coast guard. And I've spent all my life at sea trying to save lives on the water and I get home and I'm realizing that we're losing way too many children to drowning. So I've come to this conference and I'm hoping I can help. And I told him my idea about how can we educate kids better and how can we reach them and start a generational change.
Speaker 3 00:42:00 It's going to take awhile, but we got to start somewhere. And he said, I'm an incoming president for my small little rotary club in Merritt island, Florida, outside of Cape Canaveral. And as an incoming president, you can choose a program to do, to help your community, to embetter your community. And he said, you know, we give dictionaries and we have for years and rotary to third or fourth graders, because we think it's still important to have a literacy component for children. And so we support that. He goes in Florida, too many children are not surviving and making it to third or fourth grade to receive that dictionary. I'm going to give every kindergartener in our area that Joshie Otter book this year as my club project. So he bought a few hundred books that first year, and then the next year he challenged all the presidents around him and they bought about 750 books.
Speaker 3 00:42:57 And then that same year, the district governor for that area was a good friend of Admiral Underwood. And he sponsored us to go to the, uh, rotary international conference in new Orleans. And since then, it's just exploded throughout rotary. Actually from that conference, we had five, uh, gentlemen from Pakistan that we don't, we, uh, translated the book into Urdu and we shipped them the digital files and they printed the book and Urdu and distributed them to children in Pakistan. And we, uh, we have it in 12 different languages and we have a free app. We actually sent digital files of the book in Portuguese and they went to a road rack club and, um, Apollo Brazil, and they printed 350 books and distributed them to the children in Sao Paulo, Brazil. So it has, you know, it's really, if it wasn't for him rotary, we just never would have been able to get this type of expansion and message out.
Speaker 3 00:43:56 And so we love Rotarians and their passion for their local community. And the other great thing about it is it's so hard to get into a school and try to get, get the teachers, administrators they're busy. They just really don't have, uh, they always have an excuse sometimes cause we gotta get other things done, but in rotary clubs, they're local. And I would guarantee you nine times out of 10, when I speak to a rotary club, I'll ask them, is anybody in here a teacher, or is anybody in here, a school administrator or married to a school administrator and can get these books? Can we get these books into the school? And when you have that type of inroad or that connection to it's all about connection, that's, what's made it happen. And so that connection is fantastic. Um, we've had a lot of luck with fire departments doing the same thing.
Speaker 3 00:44:46 Anybody can get into the schools and get the kids' attention and, and, uh, help us spread the measure to water safety. Um, and fire departments are another great way to do that because they can go into a school whenever they want to. And they can do a fire drills and talk to kids about fire safety. And we've had a lot of them say, we're going to have water safety. Cause they're the first responders that come on to the scene many, many times and have to try to resuscitate a child whose ground so they passionately believe in and trying to get this message out as well.
Speaker 2 00:45:16 That's a very good point. And you know, for one thing that I learned in being so close with the firefighters that saved clay, you know, clay to this day, it's still like the mascot of the middle of hill fire department. And part of that is because they have to focus on the wins. They have to focus on the saves because there's so few of them in their lives. And so for, for them to be able to take their position and go into a school, be able to promote a message like this, this is healing and this is a part of their world. That's so important to them. Um, you know, it's so important to focus on that, those positive aspects, those prevention aspects of their job and their day, because they are exposed to trauma every day. And especially when they, you know, lose children, it is very upsetting and oftentimes they never have contact with the child again. Um, you know, it's rare that we have a close relationship with, uh, you know, this fire department and, you know, it's, it's, it is a huge piece. And actually we should really, I very much encourage people to reach out to their fire departments because they are very willing to do these kinds of things. It's the good part of their job. And it's a very healing part of their job for them.
Speaker 1 00:46:33 Well, and you know, Laura, you and I have said this for a long time, you know, drownings are prevented locally. It's what's happening in that local community. That's going to make the impact. And, um, you know, to go to a rotary club, to go into a local school, to go to a fire department and approach that water safety conversation and do that in unison can move mountains is making a difference in water safety. Um, you know, I, I often say what we're doing at the national level and kind of helping to coordinate and provide education and background support. Um, you know, that's passive drowning prevention, the active, drowning prevention is actually w you know, going in and being in the water with these kids and being in the community and sharing this information that makes such a huge impact every single day.
Speaker 2 00:47:20 And, you know, I think it makes a big impact too, when there are people like Blake and myself, right, that have had experiences like this, and people see us enjoying water, but safely, they see, uh, you know, I don't know anyone in families United who says, I hate water. I don't know anyone. You know, we, there might be specific triggers that someone may have regarding the water or where an incident occurs, but we're out there enjoying our time with friends and family, just like anyone else, you know, around water and, but doing it safely. And I think that's another thing that makes a big impact is for people to see us enjoying water. Um, and just being, being aware of how powerful it is. Go ahead. Like,
Speaker 3 00:48:02 Well, yeah, I was gonna re reiterate that exact fact that we didn't fill in our pool because it wasn't going to bring Joshua back and it's no different if you had a bad, a really bad situation with a car accident and somebody maybe lost her life or was permanently disabled, you don't stop driving. Uh, you probably drive a little differently, you know, you make, you, you might change your behavior a little stronger, uh, to look both ways a little more when you're, you know, when you are driving or something like that. But, you know, water water is going to be always part of everybody's life. And I'm very proud to be part of the MVPA. And I was honored to ask to be president for this term. And, uh, I enjoy working with all the other board members and being part of this. And I, I really, um, I'm touched by the families United, which is one of the main pillars of NDPA and how that was really didn't even start as families United.
Speaker 3 00:49:03 It started as more of a support network for the few of us that came to the conference. And, you know, you guys came up and gave us big hugs and welcomed us and said, you know, we're, we're the, uh, fire departments where the, uh, aquatics experts and stuff like that. And we're here to help figure this problem out. And I said, I'm, I'm here to help you figure it out too. I'm not here just for emotional support. I need to do this for my own sanity. And, uh, part of that is if I feel like I can make a different positive difference in somebody's life, then that helps with that own sanity. So I wanted to be there and be part of that. And most families that come to the NDPA that have had a loss, they have that same attitude they want, they want, they're very unselfish in the fact that they want to see this not happen to other people and not other families.
Speaker 3 00:49:56 And they understand they can't, they're not going to change their circumstance, but they can possibly help somebody else from having the same situation happened to them. And I'm very proud of my brothers and sisters and family United and all the work that they do is fabulous. And the fact that that is growing is also having a huge impact on, um, we're, we're getting a lot of great exposure from the national media and from people talking about it. And I know that they are a big part of that. I know the NDPA is a big part of that, and that's how we're going to eventually change this problem. And I
Speaker 2 00:50:35 Think we started with four, maybe nine families. I think we started with maybe nine families. And I think we're close to 70 now, 80, and
Speaker 3 00:50:44 It might've been that first meeting we had in Colorado Springs. It might've only been about six. Um, and that was the next year's gossip. And yeah, I think at nine is when we officially said, let's do this and roll with it. And now it is up to almost 70, which is very, very sad, but it's also very it. It's also very impressive. Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:51:06 Well, and one thing I want to say to, to both of you is, you know, a special thank you because I, you know, one of the things I often look at is the drowning statistics and there's 3,500 families, at least every single year in the U S affected with a drowning loss. And then we talk about Laura, the number of families that you represent as the non-fatal survivors, that numbers, you know, four or five times larger than our fatal numbers. And we don't see parents every single day getting involved in this work. And, you know, w when you think about, you know, even 80 families and families United that's over, you know, how many years, um, it's a very small percentage, you know, probably less than 1% of families that actually get engaged in this advocacy work. And for someone that goes out and teaches water safety, I've been in the pool teaching it for years, and now I have the opportunity to do it on a, on a much more massive scale, but I can stand up and talk, you know, research and data and things, um, for hours and not move a single soul in the audience.
Speaker 1 00:52:08 But as soon as one of you share your stories that have happened to your family, and we don't want to see it happen to another family that moves mountains. And I can even say, you know, even in a presentation I'm doing, when I hold Josh's card up or Clay's card up and share that story, you can hear a pin drop in the room, and that's really, you know, to what helps get this message to think through. Because one of the other things that I've, I've heard and Dana gage points this out a lot is we do hear a lot of the, I didn't know, but we also hear the, I didn't think it would happen to me. And it does it, you know, you don't ever think it's going to happen to you until unfortunately it does. Um, and I think, you know, Blake Lauren, all the other members of families United your involvement is helping to move mountains. Because again, it's, it's sharing that personal story that I think connects with people. And, you know, as soon as a parent hears, you know, what, it, you may not think it'll happen to you. I didn't think it would happen to me either until it did that moves so that it moves people so much in so many ways.
Speaker 3 00:53:15 Yeah. We're I know for a fact, just because I've had the experience that if I get, if I need to get, uh, the attention of a politician, maybe to talk about new codes or safety codes, or the attention of a hospital, a children's hospital to say, Hey, you guys need to be talking about this. The fact that I have the background that I have, and we've had the laws, they don't shun you, they don't push you away and say, we've got other things that you do get their ear, and they will listen to you. And that's why it is so important for those that are directly affected to try to stand up and say something. I think I've talking about the, the value of when you, when you've had a personal experience with something that no matter what it is, you can get an audience of people that can help you.
Speaker 3 00:54:07 And it just, it, when you can tell a personal story and you hear it with all sorts of different, uh, circumstances in people's lives, it's no different than, you know, we just had Memorial day and we want to thank all those military and those who've served our country. And, you know, they, we, we have respect for those people and we want to hear their opinion and their stories. If they want to tell it, we don't ignore them. And it's interesting that if you've had an experience in water that is not so favorable, you do get an audience and they do listen and they will be respectful of your time. And so, you know, that was part of the reason I just, I didn't want to just pretend that never happened or tried to move on and forget about it. That I couldn't do that. It wasn't, I needed to do this.
Speaker 3 00:54:58 Like I said before for my own, um, my own therapy in some respects. And then once I, once I came to the kind of that aha moment that we could be teaching children this, and we could be making changing entire lives by doing that, it became something that I, I ha I was compelled to do. It's no different, you're standing on a street corner. If someone's going to step out in front of a bus, you reach out and stop them. And I think if I would've just said, well, yeah, that was a good idea, but I'm just going to move on with my life. I would have always had regret and, you know, I would have had a sense of, I wasn't being a good part of society if I thought that I had something that could help. And I didn't pursue that.
Speaker 2 00:55:41 Yeah. There's a drive. There's a drive.
Speaker 1 00:55:44 Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Um, well, Blake, since I know we're coming up on time, I'm going to end with the three questions. I'm starting to ask every podcast guest, um, as I'm going to do these just one at a time, uh, you ready for the rapid fire questions? Sure. All right. What is one thing you wish our audience knew about you?
Speaker 3 00:56:06 Oh, well, I would say that I have the best wife in the world, but they already know that if they know Kathy, so she got that one in there, but, um, you know, I'm a home builder by trade and it's interesting is in that business, I'm always looking a better way to build a mousetrap. And with that personality, I think that helped me too. I look at things from an outside perspective and I can say, is there a way we could build this better? Is there a way we could do this better? Can we do it more efficient? Can we do it quicker? And that personality trait in my construction business was kind of fell into the same, have that same attitude about water safety. What can we do? How can we do this better? How can we make a difference? So I don't know if it's the home building side of it or just my personality is we can do this better. And I, I feel, I feel that way about everything. Um, when I'm standing at the baggage line at an airport, it just, I feel like we got to do that better. Everybody rushes up to the belt bank and there's bags going to come off first if they get closer to the belt. And I don't think that I know it,
Speaker 2 00:57:19 Clay is the same way, just like you it's. I would say because my little engineer it's the same way as always thinking about always the way processes and things, same way.
Speaker 1 00:57:29 I'm, I'm usually the one that knows my bag is coming off first. So I am, I am glued right to that position. I know what you're talking about. Um, so the, the I'm going to give you number two is kind of a part, a part B, cause this is a little bit unique. Um, what is one thing you wish everyone knew about J CMF as an organization?
Speaker 3 00:57:51 Aye. What we want to do is, uh, literally just introduce the conversation about water safety. We want to be part of everybody else's effort. It's not a competition. Um, I love Stewie the duck. I think it's a great book. I love the, the polar bear. I think it's a great book. No child should read only one book. We should be reading multiple books to him. So just from a standpoint of, Hey, let's, let's first of all, start educating kids as much as we can, if they gravitate to one character more than the other. That's great. As long as they're getting that medicine, but I want everybody to know that Joshie Otter was created to help just to be part of that conversation and to help everybody. And so I want them to use it. It's a gift. And Joshua, you know, Joshua kind of came down.
Speaker 3 00:58:46 I sometimes I utilize the Clarence from it's a wonderful life. In some respects, I feel like he was like clearance up there and he looked down and he said, drownings, this is horrific. We gotta go. I gotta go back down there and do something about it. And I'm going to pick a couple, having fallen in love with me, and then they will end up helping make a difference with this. Right. And it almost feels like I have to feel like we are chosen to do what we do. And so Joshua was a gift to us. And then in return, Joshie, Otter has become a gift to all children. And that's the way I want people to think about it, utilize it to help kids be safe and the same thing with, you know, all that we do and work together. So I want to work with anybody in, in this, in this field.
Speaker 1 00:59:35 Well, that leads me into part two B of this question because, um, you are also the current president of NDPA. So I'm going to ask you to share one thing you wish everyone knew about NDPA,
Speaker 2 00:59:49 But this is not this there, his opinions will state that this is his opinion
Speaker 1 00:59:56 Because the answers may be different. That's okay.
Speaker 3 01:00:01 Well, like I said, I, we joined this in 2008, the fall of 2008. So we've been around it for a long time. And what I will say is it is truly an Alliance of people that want to make a difference. And I, I think there was a point in time in the beginning that kind of the attitude was that NDP needed to be the experts, the determined, what was, what was the best thing that we could do to about water safety or create water safety awareness, or what's the best tool we can use. And I'm proud of the fact that we have become more of a true Alliance that says, if you want to save lives and you want to create awareness or a product, or have an idea on how to help save lives, we want you to be part of our conversation. We want you to be part of our team.
Speaker 3 01:00:53 We're not picking winners or losers. We may say to somebody, you know, that doesn't, that might not be the safest thing. If something, and you know, it doesn't meet national standards because we do have a lot of very smart people in this organization that are experts in certain fields and you should utilize their talents. That's the only thing you can do by being part of the NDPA has asked for help and get advice. But I just am so proud of the fact that we are a true Alliance so that we work together as a team in many different ways. We are a giant puzzle and we're all different pieces that make up a picture of a water safety and drowning prevention. Yeah. And that's, that's what I'm proud. That's what I'm really proud of being part of the NDPA.
Speaker 1 01:01:39 That's awesome. And Blake, my final question to you, and this is a little bit of a fun one. If you had a water safety magic wand, and I just handed it to you and you can change one thing in water safety, um, immediate takes effect immediately. What is one thing you would change? What would you do with that magic wand? Everybody can float. Uh, I love it. I love it. Um, and that would drastically impact our driving members. Absolutely. Well, Blake, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your story. You know, I, um, um, uh, the, the organization, no we're under, um, is forming a documentary around drowning prevention. And, um, one of the things that, um, you know, I was asked, uh, when I met the, uh, uh, the creator of the documentary was, you know, why do I do this work?
Speaker 1 01:02:33 And it's, so another family doesn't have to experience the same kind of loss that your family did. And I, one of the things I said is, you know, it's easy for me to get up and talk water safety, you and your family have to relive probably the worst day of your life when you share that story. And I know that's not easy, especially on the anniversary that you know today is, but thank you for that. Cause it is, it is moving mountains and you are getting people to change their behavior. So thank you, thank you for the dedication and work and, uh, allowing all of us to honor Joshua,
Speaker 3 01:03:02 Thank you very much. And I appreciate you asking me to be on and talking about Joshua because I, one thing that I, we started this, another reason we started this because I never wanted to go at a day without not thinking of my son. And, um, I w I was afraid I'd wake up or go to sleep one night and have not thought about him. That that's impossible now with the work that we do, he is, he will always be part of our life. And I don't want that to fade away by any stretch. Yeah.
Speaker 1 01:03:29 Well, I think of your son every day and I have one of your, I think, original otters in my office. I keep on my desk every day. So, um, like I said, he is, uh, is definitely, uh, making an impact, um, and getting the message out there about water safety. So, um, thanks to you all at home for listening. Blake, thank you for everything. And thanks for joining us today, Laura, you and I get the pleasure of being back, uh, with our audience next week. So tune in again next week for another edition of the NDPA water safety podcast, take care. Everyone have a safe week. Thanks Adam. Thank you guys.