News 4 Lifesaver

Aug 23, 2013 12:31 AM by Kristi Tedesco

TMC, UA students team up to prevent drowning

TUCSON - There have been 11 close calls for Pima County kids this swim season and one child has died in a backyard swimming pool.

Our News 4 Tucson Lifesaver partner, Tucson Medical Center, is determined to cut those numbers. So the hospital recruited college interns to dig deep.

Matthew Cox is a recent graduate in Public Administration and Jennifer Tomlinson is a nursing student. They're with a team from LeadLocal, a company that partners college students and young professionals with community building projects. Kristi's Kids was at T.M.C. to learn about their project.

T.M.C. wanted to know how effective its Vest-it-Up program is and to find new child safety models.

Geataeus Willocks, an engineer from Raytheon, was the Project Lead. She's from the Caribbean.

"Back home people know how to swim. It's just not a big deal," she explains. "And so when I came to the U.S. for college and I realized how many people did not know how to swim, it was a little bit alarming."

Throughout the last spring semester the team researched other places.

"They not only went national they went global," says Hope Thomas, Director of Volunteers and Community Programs at T.M.C. "They were fortunate to have someone on their team that spoke six languages. They were able to talk to people in Portugal that has a very high drowning rate."

In fact, in Portugal, swim lessons are offered in the schools.

Australia has a 4 tiered approach: supervision, restrictions, water awareness and resuscitation.

And in Washington state Personal Flotation Devices (PFD's) or lifevests are big in open water and pools.

"At community pools you would have these PFD's and you'd loan them out to kids as they came and swam," says Geataeus.

One of the recommendations from the study is to encourage more use of life vests in the same we use car seats and bicycle helmets.

And we couldn't help notice the team from LeadLocal recognized Kristi's Kids as a key partner to market the messages.

To motivate kids to use life vests TMC IS asking for help. The hospital needs a creative name so the life vests seem more fun and cool. If you have an idea sent T.M.C. an email to:

And speaking of fun don't forget the Water Safety Expo Friday and Saturday night at the Tucson Mud Drags. Click here for more information on Water Safety Expo/Tucson Mud Drags.


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