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 CARE => Sink or swim PRINT】 【BACK
DATE:[2009-11-22]    BROWS[4141]

Ten-month old Kennedy Riley is facedown in the swimming pool at Palos Health and Fitness in Orland Park.

Suddenly the infant turns her body, rolling onto her back and begins kicking to stay afloat. Standing at the side of the pool are parents Jamie and Kevin Riley, clapping and cheering on the little one.

No, they weren't just waiting to see what would happen to Kennedy when she hit the water. Instead, the Matteson couple are observers as their twins, Kennedy and Christopher, learn self-rescue swimming through Infant Swimming Resource.

ISR certified instructors Andie Groff and Dawn Russo have been working with 15 children, ages 6 months-6 years, for the last six weeks at Palos Health and Fitness in Orland Park.
The customized six-week program teaches children a variety of lessons from infants holding their breath and floating unassisted to toddlers swimming with their head down and eyes open, floating on their back and then resume swimming again. Once the child masters the tasks, they then perform their newly learned techniques fully clothed.

"We've been doing this for the past six weeks and we've done it over and over to get them [children] to the point where we can place them down and they do their thing," Groff said.

She also said that the young students attend class five days a week for six weeks and based on their age, receive 20-30 lessons during the six weeks. Prior to a child attending the first class, Groff said they have already been speaking with the parents for several weeks. On the first day, Groff explains what the child will learn as well as tips for the parents on how to be good coaches on the sidelines.
We only put the kids in the water for a few minutes, bouncing them around and talking with them," she said.

The lessons last approximately 10 minutes which Groff said is a lot for the young children.

"It's pretty intense — it's like an hour on the treadmill for us," she said.

Jamie Riley said that she is happy that her twins, which are just two of seven grandchildren, know how to survive now.

"There are three toddlers under the age of 1," Riley said. "No matter how much you think you know you're watching and then something happens, I'm happy at least these two can survive and save themselves if something were to happen."

Groff said the obvious benefit for the children taking the class is that they don't die.

"If a little one crawled off, went to the backyard and there's a baby pool and they fell into it, they are going to flip themselves over and face up," she said. "They'll be breathing when they are found, versus the alternative which is face down and dead."
Palos Health and Fitness Supervisor Scott Byrdak said the club was happy to host the classes.

"It's given us an opportunity to provide a resource for the kids," he said. "In case something happens when they are in or around the water, they now have the resources naturally to survive an accident."

Tinley Park resident Christine Obaggy, whose 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter Caitlin Schofield, has been participating in the class, learning the "swim-float-swim" method.

"When we first came, she was like every other 2-year-old, walking up to her knee," Obaggy said. "After class, we went to a pool and she can jump in and swim all on her own right to me.

"She's learned a respect for the water and not a fear of the water. It's pretty amazing what she's learned in such a short amount of time."

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