In June of 2013 a two year old was found floating face down in the water at Sugden Park. A mere five minutes had elapsed without adult supervision. Had the child been wearing a lifejacket, it would not have been a life altering event. Everyone should be aware that ”Kids don’t float, lifejackets do.” This will be the motto of this new cooperative venture to save children’s lives.
While wearing lifejackets for boaters is always stressed by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and National Safe Boating Council, the NCH Safe and Healthy Children’s Coalition of Collier County has taken it to our beaches. For it is here where non-swimmers’ lives can be saved by providing them with free lifejackets.
The state of Alaska provided a grant sponsoring the “Kids Don’t Float-Give Them Something That Does” initiative. The program was developed in Homer, Alaska, to combat the high incidence of drownings of children in the Kachemak Bay.
Adapted statewide in 1997, it is sponsored by a coalition of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska Safe Kids, the Office of Boating Safety, Alaska Native Tribal organizations, private businesses and community volunteers. At this juncture there have been 24 young lives saved by the lifejacket loaner program.
Taking its cue from the Alaska program, the NCH Safe and Healthy Children’s Coalition of Collier County saw fit to establish a lifejacket loaner program at area beaches with cooperation from government, business and community organizations. Although lacking a state grant, what the program does have is extraordinary cooperation from Collier County Department of Parks and Recreation, City of Naples Parks and Recreation, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotillas 93, 95 and 96, West Marine, Sprigg Yacht Consulting, LLC, 21st Century Oncology, Marine Industries Association of Collier County and the Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary will monitor the jackets placed at five beaches: Sugden Park, Clam Pass, Vanderbilt Beach, South Marco Island and Tigertail Beaches. There will be 20 jackets per station with four adult sizes, four (18-10 years), five (10-5 years), and seven for children 5 and under.
Stands for the jackets are being constructed by Collier County Parks and Recreation along with the signage. Names of donors will be inscribed on the signs as station sponsors when the program begins on February 5.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary will do monthly checks on the condition of the jackets. If any are missing or in disrepair, they will be replaced from new ones kept in storage.
East Naples Kiwanis and Paradise Management recently gave generous donations to the program. If you are interested in helping in any way, including donations, please email us at email@example.com.