Making a big SPLASH

MARQUETTE – To get children ready for the upcoming summer swimming season, local entities worked together to educate kids on water safety with an event called Superior Splash.

Superior Splash is a program that was created by Katie Theut – fitness and informal recreation manager for Northern Michigan University Recreational Sports – and Matt Williams – aquatics and competitive swimming leader at the YMCA. The pair worked together on the Waterfront Safety Task Force in the past and decided to target third-graders in Marquette County because the program coincides with what they are learning in school, Theut said.

“This is really the first exposure that they get in public school to water safety,” she said. “With the season coming up and the fact that there’s water everywhere in this county, we wanted to make sure that this age group, specifically, started out being exposed to this at the right time learning-wise.”

The program took place Monday through Wednesday for an hour each night at three different locations: NMU, the Marquette YMCA and Westwood High School. To make the program accessible to everybody it was free for the public. By making it free, Theut said, it has brought kids into the program who have never participated in other programs at NMU.

“It also may allow kids who haven’t had access to a free health facility to gain more interest in swimming and possibly expose the families to water safety aspects as well, because while we want to keep kids safe, I think that parents need to be exposed to it as much as the kids do,” Theut said. “So we’re doing that by allowing parents and families to observe and get involved with the hope that more of an emphasis on water safety will occur.”

Each night the children learned something new including life jacket safety, basic swimming techniques and the role the Marquette Sheriff’s Department, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Marquette Fire Department plays in search and rescue operations. The children saw what goes into a real life scenario, and Theut said she hopes that this program can be something they can continue each year and that it grows.

“Obviously with it being the first year there are going to be lower numbers, just like with everything, but I honestly think that with the work we did on the Waterfront Safety Task Force a few years ago that this is the natural way it’s supposed to progress,” she said. “I think that it’s great to do this once a year, especially when it’s a time like this right before the season kicks off.”

Theut said she hopes that water safety will become no different than bike helmet safety. There are three things that she said she hopes the kids will get from this program.

“I think the first thing is that the kids will feel more comfortable in a situation where they might need to call for help,” Theut said. “The second thing would be that they gain some sort of confidence in their swimming ability and either recognize they are either a strong swimmer or that they need more improvement. And then last that they gain a greater appreciation for what it means to be safe in and around the water.”

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.