Dominick Mondi, executive director of Northeast Spa and Pool Association & NESPA Foundation, Olympic Gold medalist Rowdy Gaines, and Joe Ohme, founding board member of the New Jersey Swim Safety Alliance, joined Assemblyman Sean Kean on the boardwalk in Spring Lake, N.J., to highlight the importance of water safety education this Memorial Day weekend.
All advocates for water safety initiatives, the group gathered to support Kean’s legislation (A618) which proposes that K-12 school districts be required to provide instruction on water safety. The bill is currently awaiting consideration in the Assembly Education Committee.
“The ocean and pool provide amazing opportunities for exercise, relaxation, fun and cooling off. However, we must always be careful around water — the ocean, lakes, rivers, as well as pools and hot tubs,” says Asm. Kean. “It is important that water safety is taught in schools as part of health and physical education. I hope that this is just the beginning — that learning in the classroom leads to actual swim lessons in water.”
“The NESPA Foundation is focused on creating more opportunities for children to learn lifesaving water skills and introducing kids to a lifelong love of aquatics,” Mondi says. “Drowning prevention starts with building respect for water and understanding water conditions. This bill helps us bring this critical information to more young people in New Jersey.”
According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages one to four. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children five to 14, following motor vehicle crashes. According to data from the NJ Department of Health, 78 people died in New Jersey due to drowning in 2021.
“Drowning is the No. 1 cause of accidental deaths for children under the age of four, and we believe these tragedies can be avoided with proper education and awareness. Providing this information through our school system will significantly increase the accessibility of this information to children throughout the state, who otherwise might never receive it,” says Oehme. “We support this legislation and similar efforts to create a broader range of delivering the message of water safety education and awareness to all.”
“The best thing we can do to keep our children safe in the water is to continue talking about the lifesaving skill of learning to swim and increase access to swim education to make water safety a reality for children in need,” shared Gaines, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and vice president of Partnerships and Development for PHTA, who leads the Step Into Swim initiative.
Affirming the NESPA Foundation’s commitment to supporting swim education around our region, the Foundation has committed $25,000 to Step into Swim — an initiative of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, and its Foundation committed to safe swim education and drowning prevention. As part of this pledge, the Foundation will match donations made at www.NESPAfoundation.org. The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance will also match this doubled donation, meaning each donation is quadrupled.
Mondi added, “Partnering with Step Into Swim aligns perfectly with our efforts to educate more children and families about water safety.”
For those ages one to four, learning to swim from a qualified instructor drastically reduces the risk of drowning by 88% and is critical in keeping children safer in the water. The NESPA Foundation shares in Step Into Swim’s mission to combat drowning prevention with access to free swimming lessons and educational resources that empower our children to be confident in and around water.
“I am grateful to the NESPA Foundation for their continued support of and generosity to Step Into Swim,” says Gaines. “Our donors and sponsors are the driving force behind the success of this program. The NESPA Foundation’s commitment to Step Into Swim allows us to help save lives, promote the benefits of swimming, and serve as an educational resource for water safety in communities where it is needed most.”