Young children die by drowning at an alarming rate in Alaska, including in the target area: the Mat -Su Borough. This program saves lives by
• increasing water safety literacy and awareness, and
• providing personal flotation devices (suitably sized for children) for on-the-spot loan near bodies of water, while also
• enhancing basic literacy through an engaging presentation where each child receives a story book to take home.
"Josh the Baby Otter" presentations will occur in schools near the end of the academic year, in the weeks just before children begin summer activities which will likely take them near water. "Kids Don't Float" (KDF) kiosks will be constructed during the summer at two or more new sites, and existing kiosks will be resupplied with PFDs at the beginning of the summer weather.
Active Rotarian Involvement:
Rotarians and other community volunteers distribute "Josh the Baby Otter" books at an in-school group assembly, at schools throughout the Mat-Su Borough. Typically, a team of 5 Rotarians lead children through a story, singing together with body movements, leading to a water safety pledge and receiving their book with a Rotary sticker, an associated coloring book, a CD with songs, and a fun sticker. The assembly is enhanced by a visit by our costumed mascot "Josh the Otter" who joins in the singing and actions.
In 2017-18, the project introduced pool training sessions in partnership with local pools and the Alaska Office of Boating Safety. These sessions teach children how to safely respond to upsets, as well as reinforcing basic water and boating safety practice. Again, Josh makes an appearance at these sessions, which the kids enjoy, and which helps reinforce the message. In 2018-19 the program will add the "Learn to Float" water (pool) sessions that train very young children (pre-K) to float when they find themselves in water. This proven training method is offered by Susitna Rotarians who have received specialized training in the method.
"Josh the Baby Otter" safety instruction is complemented by "Kids Don't Float" stations installed, stocked, and maintained by Rotarians at area bodies of water.
We achieve public awareness through the visibility the children provide by bringing their books home to parents and siblings, and through press releases, social media and direct contacts. "Kids Don't Float" kiosks are a continuous presence at area bodies of water, and are also highlighted through social media. Both the books and kiosks are marked with Rotary symbols.
Cooperating Organization: The "Josh the Baby Otter" and "Learn to Float" programs are presented in conjunction with the Joshua Collingsworth Foundation (a 501(c)3 charitable organization) and school partners including the Mat-Su Borough School District and area private schools and home-schooling families. "Kids Don't Float" is presented in partnership with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and Alaska Office of Boating Safety. The Rotary Club of Susitna has been recognized as a Rotary Hero for Water Safety (see http://www.joshtheotter.org/resources/rotary/rotaryheroesforwatersafety.html) for past projects.
The total budget includes purchase of 1,700 book/CD packages at a cost of US$3.50 each (includes shipping). Population estimates for the Mat Su Borough show more than 4,226 children in the target age resided in the borough in 2017 (latest estimate available from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development). Any unused books will be retained for distribution in future years. This budget also includes two (2) "Kids Don't Float" stations at US$275.00 each. If we are able to install and equip the two stations for less than US$550.00, we will use remaining funds to replenish supplies at existing stations. We may be able to secure donated supplies; in such case we will install additional stations.