Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in children from the ages of 1-4 years in the United States (per the CDC 2016-2020). Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in children aged 5-14 years, behind Motor Vehicle Crashes. Every day in the USA, 11 children die of unintentional drowning (4000 per year). Every day in the USA 22 children experience a nonfatal drowning event (8000 per year).
Alaska has the highest rate of unintentional drownings per capita in the United States at a rate of 4.75 deaths per 100,000 (CDC). The next closest state is Hawaii with a 3.09 drowning deaths per 100,000. The average per capita drowning rate for the 50 states combined is 1.28 deaths per 100,000. Worldwide drownings account for 372,000 deaths per year with 90% of these deaths occurring in low and middle income countries. Mexico's per capita drowning rate is 7.6 deaths per 100,000 in rural areas. This rate is largely due to drownings that occur in underground cisterns and water wells to children aged 1-4 years old.
Clearly these statistics are alarming! Our objective with this project is to reduce accidental drownings within the Mat-Su community and in the community of Baja California Sur Mexico.
We will accomplish this by:
1.) Educating young children about water safety and the dangers of drowning utilizing the "Josh The Otter"Safety Presentations and Providing a "Josh the Otter Book" to every Kindergarten student in both these communities every year.
2.) Providing personal flotation devices on "Kids don't Float" Life Jacket Loaner Kiosks (suitably sized for children) for on-the-spot loan near bodies of water in the Mat-Su area.
3.) Provide "Hands on Training"during our Josh the Otter pool sessions to children aged 3-7 in both Mat-Su and Baja California Sur Mexico..
"Josh the Baby Otter" presentations will occur in the Mat-Su community elementary schools near the end of the academic year, in the weeks just before children begin summer activities which will likely take them near water. In Loreto, Mexico the program will occur in March prior to religious holidays. Our program seeks to provide every kindergarten kid with a presentation on Water Safety principles and a Josh The Otter book to take home with them to their fanilies. "Kids Don't Float" (KDF) kiosks will be constructed during the summer at four new sites in the Big Lake area. 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 and Loreto Mexico. Typically, a team of 5 Rotarians or volunteers 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, 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, our club took Josh the Otter to Loreto Mexico, and held 2 Pool sessions in addition to the classroom presentation.
In 2020-2021 Covid -19 prevented us from distributing books and presenting in person. We developed an on-line module, however it was underutilized.
In 2022 we were allowed back into the schools in the Mat-Su in Alaska and in Loreto Mexico. We were able to Present "Josh the Otter" to 1578 children in the Mat-Su Valley and 594 children in Loreto and surrounding villages of Baja California Sur, Mexico.
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" 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 Loreto Municipality. "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.
"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.
The Budget for the 2023-2024 Year includes supplies and materials to provide the Kindergarten class of 2024 Josh The Otter Books, Coloring Books, and Josh the Otter Stickers. Any unused books will be retained for distribution in future years. The total budget includes purchase of two Josh the Otter Mascot Costumes. One costume is a replacement for our original aging costume and the other is for our International Program in Mexico. This budget also includes four (4) "Kids Don't Float" stations at US$420.00 each to be installed in the Big Lake area of the Mat-Su. If we are able to install and equip the four stations for less than US$1680.00, 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.
$6715 "Josh the Baby Otter" Packet includes book, coloring book, and sticker (1700 @
$2765 "Josh Le Pequena Nutrena" Spanish books (700 @ $3.95/ea)
$800 Josh T-shirts for volunteers (40 @ $20.00/ea)
$6000 Josh the Otter Costume (2 @ $3000/ea)
$79.80 Josh The Otter Plush Stuffed Animal ($19.95/ea)
$300 Pool Session Rental Fees (2 @ $150 per session)
$1680 Kids Don't Float Kiosks (4 at $420 each)
$18,339.80 subtotal Water Safety materials