Greenwich Kids Learn Water Safety at ZAC Camp

Greenwich Kids Learn Water Safety at ZAC Camp

April 16, 2015 – The 85 kids who took part in ZAC Camp this week did a lot more than splash around in the pool. They learned lessons that can save a life.

The annual camp, held at the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, wrapped up Thursday with participants receiving medals for their work. Kids ages 5 through 9 honed their swimming technique and learned how to avoid danger in the water.

To hammer these lessons home, kids spent time in the classroom as well as in the club’s pool, and even got to climb on board a fire engine and ambulance to remove any fear they might have about emergency responders.

All was done through The ZAC Foundation, which started ZAC Camps five years ago at the Greenwich club and now holds them throughout the country.

Greenwich residents Karen and Brian Cohn lost their son Zachary in 2008 when he drowned after his arm got caught in an improperly installed swimming pool drain. The incident resulted in criminal charges against the pool company president, and prompted the Cohns to form the foundation.

“It’s thrilling and healing to see this,” Karen Cohn said after the medals were handed out. “We had some real success stories this week. We had children that were in the camp who had never been there before and hadn’t been exposed to swimming lessons. They were really afraid at the beginning of the week but we saw them progress to the point where today they are swimming and happy in the water. They’re not clinging to the side or not getting in anymore.”

She was accompanied at the ceremony by her kids Jenna, Henry and Sydney and helped hand out the medals.

“This is what we set out to do,” Cohn said. “We have an angel guiding us and we’re shepherding this through the process.”

Kids also received a goody bag with a towel, fire hat, swimming safety card and a copy of Cohn’s children’s book “The Polar Bear Who Couldn’t, Wouldn’t Swim.” Zeke the bear even made a cameo at the end of the day to give kids congratulatory hugs and high fives.

Seven-year-old Brianna Carreno said she loved all the time she was able to spend in the pool, which is one of her favorite parts about being a member of the Boys and Girls Club. But she will also take home very valuable lessons.

“I learned if a drain is broken then go tell an adult and get out of the water,” Brianna said.

Sofia Munoz, 7, said she loved being able to improve as a swimmer thanks to ZAC Camp.

“I learned you should always have an adult near you when you’re in the pool,” Sofia said.

Boys and Girls Club CEO Bobby Walker Jr. told the kids he wished he’d had a program like this when he was a kid learning to swim.

“I’ve been absolutely amazed by what I’ve seen this week,” Walker said. “I’ve seen what you’ve learned and what you’ve experienced and, most importantly, what you’re going to carry with you for the rest of your lives. I think that’s what ZAC Camp is all about. It’s teaching very practical skills in a very fun setting.”

The importance of carrying lessons forward was echoed by Fire Chief Peter Siecienski who said after seeing how excited the kids were to get in the fire engine he expected to see some future firefighters in the bunch.

“This is a wonderful program and it’s so rewarding to be a part of this,” Siecienski said.

“It’s really important to learn about swimming safety,” said Patrick Lane, 9. “I loved seeing theFire Department too. It was fun to be able to get in the fire truck and it was great to learn how to swim faster and about water safety.”

Greenwich Time – Ken Borsuk