FOREST PARK – More than a hundred children across the city are making a big splash this summer, thanks to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis. And for some of them, it will become the difference between life and death.
For the fifth year in a row in partnership with the ZAC Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club is hosting a four-day water safety camp for children ages 5 to 9.
The ZAC Foundation is named for Zachary Archer Cohn, a 6-year-old who died in his family’s backyard pool after his arm became entrapped in the pool’s drain.
The award-winning ZAC Camp will teach children and their families lifesaving water safety skills through hands-on experience, swimming lessons, classroom activities and engagement with first responders.
“Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 through 4 and the second leading cause of death for children under the age of 14, and not a lot of people know that,” said Megan Ferraro, executive director of the ZAC Foundation.
Zachary’s parents, Karen and Brian Cohn, founded the ZAC Foundation in honor of their son in 2008. Zachary’s memory is the inspiration for the foundation’s mission and activities. It has become their purpose to prepare children and their families for a lifetime of safety.
Earlier this year in May, the ZAC Foundation hosted a community roundtable discussion in St. Louis to come up with an action plan to improve water safety in the city just before the height of pool season.
Swim safety advocates, elected officials, public policy and health experts, school officials, families, and community leaders were all in attendance.
“We know that African-American children and Hispanics drown at three to four times the rate of their Caucasian counterparts,” Ferraro said.
“The ZAC Foundation has committed its resources to really working in communities so that we can access those children, engage them in water safety and drowning prevention information and get them in the pool and learning how to swim,” she went on to say.
In addition to swimming lessons, the ZAC Camp gives children the chance to engage with first responders.
“We’re really, really happy and we’re excited to get to those areas because we want to drive that number down as much as possible,” said Territory Aquatic Specialist Tim Oldenbug.
As an employee of the American Red Cross Training Services team, Oldenburg said increasing education and awareness was important. He said the ZAC Camp was providing information that was beneficial to not only the children but to their friends, family and parents.
The last day of this year’s ZAC camp is July 11. There will be an awards ceremony at the Hebert Hoover Boys and Girls Club beginning at noon.
Joining forces with the ZAC Foundation yet again, the Boys and Girls Club also provides year-round water safety instruction for children and their parents.
For more information about the ZAC Foundation, you can visit them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or thezacfoundation.org.