Program brings water safety lesson from pools to schools

As pools and beaches open across Long Island for the summer, children are learning to respect the water and how to save lives.

Rich Specht, of Sound Beach, is making sure his daughter Melina is learning how to swim as early as possible. His son drowned in a pool.

Specht had asked a friend to watch 22-month-old Reese while he prepped his home for Superstorm Sandy. His son was out of his sight for no more than five minutes.

"When I got to the water, I saw him there and I pulled him out and tried CPR, but I knew he was gone," he says. "It was five minutes but all it takes is that one breath."

About three years ago, Specht and his daughter's swim instructor worked together to bring an educational program about water safety from the pools to schools.

"There's got to be eyes on children at all times," he says. "Especially around water. It doesn't matter what the body of water is, whether it's a pond or a pool or the ocean."

Bobby Hazen is the head of the End Drowning Now organization, formerly known as The Long Island Drowning Prevention Task Force.

"There was a lot of good information out there, from the YMCA, the Red Cross or even the counties," he says. "There wasn't a good way of delivering it. So that's what I wanted to do by coming up with this program."

Characters like Timmy the Tadpole and Sammy Starfish help teach students from preschool through fifth grade about the importance of water safety. Hazen says they visit about 20 schools a year.

Specht says he doesn't want anyone to go through what he did.

"I can't go back and change what happened to us, but if we can save one child, then it's worth it," he says.

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