Community organizations united for a common cause on Friday morning at Portage High School as the Portage Parks Department in collaboration with the Portage YMCA and Boys & Girls Club hosted a Water Safety Expo for children.
Portage Parks & Recreation Department Superintendent Jenny Orsburn received a grant from the Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan Coastal Program to hold the event and to post water safety information at the Portage Lakefront.
About 60 YMCA summer campers joined children bused over from the Boys & Girls Club to witness the event. They received instruction from many different knowledgeable community members, including Portage Firefighters and Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Director of Education Bob Pratt.
“I think it’s great to recognize and realize that we serve the same community and we do everything that we can to make it better and educate our kids to make sure we have fewer accidents,” YMCA Senior Program Director Abby Alexander said. “I think it’s wonderful.”
According to Interim President Ryan Smiley, the event had an even greater importance for the Boys & Girls Club after the South Haven Club member Corey McFry was the victim of a tragic drowning last July.
“It really hit home with our club, our kids and our community,” Smiley said. “I think this is the beginning of a collaborative approach in the future to have an impact and really educate our kids on the importance of drowning prevention.”
The children listened to various speakers in the PHS gymnasium before moving to the pool for a demonstration from the Great Lakes Rescue Surf Project. Orsburn was pleased to see the receptiveness of the community organizations when she asked them to get involved with the expo.
“They’re the ones that have to go out there and deal with the tragedy, so when I asked them to do this they were very agreeable to it because they don’t like to see tragedy as much as the person in that situation,” she said. “They know that the clock is ticking. Once 911 is called, sometimes it’s too late. We wanted to get everybody in the room and give everybody information about safety.”