Roxie drowned because Summerkids (Altadena, CA) camp failed to watch children in their pool and keep them safe. Summerkids staff allowed themselves to be distracted. They neglected Roxie. And Roxie died.
We largely died that day too.
We could say accidents happen. But we won’t. That’s because it has been said too many times before. And this was not an accident. This was preventable. This was negligence. This is also unforgivable.
While we wish Summerkids could have further enlightened all of us about the events of that day, our foundation will nonetheless make this a profound teachable moment.
This is not about telling people it is “the first such incident at our camp in more than 40 years of operation.” This is about what led to this preventable death in the first place and what we do now to prevent this from ever happening again.
Summerkids said they were “conducting a thorough process to evaluate what occurred.” So far that is not the case.
But this foundation has been conducting its own thorough process in order to change the myriad child drownings and near drownings in California. We begin by calling this a “preventable drowning” and letting third party water safety experts and county health and safety authorities conduct an objective and public investigation so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes year over year.
We are taking a very different approach to this issue.
There are times for tears and grieving. But we are already tired of hearing and seeing all of the dramatic, glossy stories from parents who “just looked away from their child for what must have been seconds” or how they had pool fencing or life jackets or how camps have certified lifeguards or how the camp came highly recommended from a friend. We must hold ourselves accountable right out of the gate because we do not ask enough questions. And that’s how most parents do it. They simply trust people with their most precious cargo. That is not good enough. Not even close.
We did not ask to see Summerkids’ emergency action plan.
We did not ask about their overall safeguards.
We did not ask to see their lifeguard certificates.
We did not speak to the counselors about their lifeguard or swimming experience.
We did not meet or speak with the person who certified the counselors as lifeguards or ask about his certificates, experience and training.
We did not ask about the camp’s insurance policy.
We did not ask why the camp did not use helmets for their rock climbing wall or what safety training they possessed.
We did not ask plenty of basic, important questions.
And Roxie died.
Children nationwide drown almost every week of every year because of negligence. Somebody looks away or gets distracted or is ill-prepared. The next thing you know, there’s a memorial service, then the “how can this happen to me” talk, then all the stories about what the child meant, then the life of suffering.
But parents—including us—and guardians and camp staff and public pool/river/lake/ocean personnel and government officials and other safety gatekeepers must own it. If we don’t ask the right questions, if we don’t demand the right answers and the right actions from ourselves or from those who are in charge of our children, then we all fail.
Enough is enough.
These are just some of the measures that Meow Meow Foundation currently pursues to ELIMINATE, not mitigate, preventable drowning:
“ROXIE RULES” – Establish a Holistic Child Drowning Prevention Program for California
Work with the California Department of Social Services and the Department of Public Health to aggregate drowning/near drowning data. Assess demographics, conditions, correlations. Build results into proprietary database.
Evaluate programmatic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) in current California-based child drowning prevention programming.
Utilize data / programming analyses and our partnership with Rose Bowl Aquatics Center water safety experts to develop California’s first end-to-end public/private child drowning prevention model, branded ROXIE RULES.
Pilot ROXIE RULES throughout greater Pasadena, CA (San Gabriel Valley). Implement with municipal and county health and safety officials, schools and recreation centers.
“NEXT STEPS” – Support Children and Families Who Survive Near Drowning
MMF has partnered with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to:
Support supplementary rehabilitation services for one child/family per year who suffered a non-fatal near drowning.
Implement annual child-centric hospital-wide drowning prevention campaign titled “DON’T LET US D(R)OWN.”
To further fund this initiative, one of the most widely recognized family brands in the world has agreed to offer MMF a generous dollar-for-dollar employee matching gift program. MORE TO COME!
DAY CAMP LICENSING
Sponsor a bill to be introduced January 2020 that would finally license California day camps, which increases oversight of camp run recreational activities at pools, lakes, rivers, oceans.
Official legislative partners include Senator Anthony Portantino and Assemblymembers Chris Holden and Brian Maienschein.
Official organizational partners include the American Camp Association, California Collaboration for Youth, Drowning Prevention Foundation and California Coalition for Children’s Safety and Health, among others.