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Swim instructor, Tyler parent stress importance of water safety for kids

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Published: May. 17, 2022 at 4:54 PM CDT|Updated: May. 17, 2022 at 7:06 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - May is National Water Safety Month and the goal is to raise awareness about safe water practices.

“Swimming is the first sport a child should learn. It is a life and death matter. There’s too many accidents that happen every year that are accidents that could be preventable,” said Gay Tyra, the Aquatic Specialist at UT Health’s Olympic Center. She’s been doing lessons here for 25 years and says they work with the child and parent.

“Number one, they need to be introduced to going underwater, especially the babies. Floating on their back, going under and feeling comfortable under the water. Bigger kids, falling in, being pushed in and able to swim and get to the side,” she said.

According to the CDC almost 4,000 people fatally drown in the United States every year. This year alone, the state reports 15 children have drowned in Texas. For mom, Melissa Fitzgerald, she wanted to get her children in lessons around six months old.

“We wanted to get my son in lessons because we thought it was very important to get babies in the water and get them comfortable with it, and then as they get older they can be confident swimmers at a young age,” Fitzgerald said.

Her five year-old-son and almost three-year-old daughter have lessons weekly with Tyra.

“With my first one I was very reluctant because as a mom you don’t want your child to be in any type of stress or put them in a situation that you weren’t comfortable with,” Fitzgerald said. “But once we kept going he responded really well to it and we knew it was the best for him.”

Tyra said parents play a big role in the lessons, as they’re in the water with their children learning alongside them.

“What you want is a confident swimmer,” Tyra said. “A parent wants to know if their child falls in, that they can swim to the side to save their life.”

Tyra wants people to know, no matter how old you are, it is never too late to learn how to swim and there are centers that teach all ages.

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