Swimming tragedy triggers new push for swim lessons - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Swimming tragedy triggers new push for swim lessons

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A beautiful weekend trip to the park turned into a nightmare on Saturday night.   Sylvania police say 8-year-old Mustafa Ali wandered away from his family and ultimately got in the water.   After two hours of searching, divers found his body in a part of the lake that wasn't marked for swimming.

"My heart really goes out to the family," says Erika Buri, the executive director for the Olander Park System.  "I feel terrible for them and I hope that they pull through this."

Wanda Butts knows the pain and anguish behind the loss of a child.   Her 16-year-old son Josh drowned eight years ago.   She used that pain to start The Josh Project, which teaches basic water skills to kids and adults.

"Drowning is a silent death and it happens very quickly," Butts tells 13abc.  "I didn't want another mother to have to suffer with her family the way I will for the rest of my life."

The Josh Project accepts kids over the age of three and a half, but Wanda says those as young as one can learn to swim.  She highly recommends parents keep a close eye on kids in or near the water.
    
Olander Park is equipped with life guards, but park leaders say Mustafa was in a portion of the lake where swimming wasn't allowed.

"We have robust safety precautions and procedures in place for our swim area and for resources outside of the swim area," says Buri. "Unfortunately this incident happened after swim was closed."

Learning just a few basic water skills is a small yet vital step, that could keep more kids alive and prevent another heartbreaking tragedy like the one on Saturday.

"Watch the children around the water so accidents do not happen," says Wanda.  "We don't want to lose our children like this."

The Josh Project is launching a second session of swimming lessons on Saturday, June 14 at 10 a.m. at St. Francis de Sales.  It costs $25 to register for the six, 30-minute lessons.  The sessions are open to everyone over the age of three and a half.

To get more information about the Josh Project and the need for community donations and volunteers, visit http://joshdev.org/ .

The family of little Mustafa Ali is accepting donations.  They can be made at any local Huntington Bank branch.

To get more information about water-related injuries and statistics, visit http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/water-safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html .
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