In the first two weeks in May, the North Platte Noon Rotary Club will bring the ‘Josh the Otter,’ a water safety and literacy project to the kindergarten classes of North Platte.This is North Platte Rotary’s fifth year in the water safety project, which will reach 321 kindergarten students in 11 elementary schools in North Platte, including the North Platte public schools, McDaid Elementary and Our Redeemer Lutheran School.
By the end of this year, the club will have reached more than 1,900 students through the program.
“Our Noon Rotary Club first learned about Josh the Otter from our friend Trudy Merritt with the North Platte Rec Center, when she spoke at one of our meetings,” said Misty Robertson, the chair of the Rotary’s Josh the Otter committee. "Trudy talked about what the Rec Center was doing with the 'Little Otters' water training program, and provided information about the Josh the Otter reading program, which many Rotary clubs have taken on as a project.”
“Bringing Josh the Otter to kindergarten classes seemed like a great way to promote water safety in our community, in a way that would be fun and memorable for the kids,” Robertson said. “After this year’s program, which runs through the first two weeks of May, we will have reached over 1,900 kids in North Platte in the five years since Noon Rotary started the project”
The North Platte Noon Rotary Club partners with the drowning prevention non-profit that created the program, the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation. JCMF has recently been nationally recognized for their partnership work with organizations such as Rotary International.
In March, JCMF received the 2012 Community Lifesaving Award from the National Drowning Prevention Alliance and the National Water Safety Congress 2012 Regional Award for their ongoing efforts to promote water safety awareness throughout the United States.
The Josh the Otter program is spreading from the coast of eastern Florida to the shores of Hawaii.
Rotarians across the country and even the world are hearing the life-saving message and are excited at the positive changes that a partnership between Josh the Otter and Rotary International can bring to communities everywhere.
Since 2010, Rotarians have distributed thousands of Josh the Baby Otter books and everyday more clubs are starting their own Josh the Otter literacy and water safety projects. Currently, Rotarians in more than 20 states and the country of Pakistan are pursuing the Josh the Otter project.
With drowning a leading cause of unintentional death for children all over the world, Rotarians are helping to save thousands of lives, organizers say.
Starting point: Toddler drowning in Lincoln
Parents Blake and Kathy Collingsworth honor the memory of their son Joshua, 2, who died on June 4, 2008 after falling into the family pool three days earlier.
The parents believed they had every safety precaution in place, but the reality is that a drowning can occur in mere moments. After losing Joshua, they felt compelled to help reduce the dramatic numbers of deaths by drowning that occur in our country and around the world.
The Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation was created in July 2008 to strengthen water safety awareness and create an early childhood educational program. Their goal is to empower children to be safe in and around all bodies of water. The Josh the Otter Water Safety and Awareness Project is dedicated to teaching children about water safety through the use of Josh the Baby Otter, a book written by Blake, which was recently translated into Spanish. The foundation and its partners have distributed nearly 40,000 books. The program has been presented in classrooms, community centers, zoos, pools, and childcare facilities around the world.
1.2 Million people around the world die by drowning every year -- more than two persons per minute. (International Life Saving Federation, 2010)
Drowning is preventable. Let's not make a tragedy necessary to alert people to consider water safety and awareness. www.joshuamemorial.org
The Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation is a qualified IRS 501 (c)(3) organization.