Dollywood, children's hospital hold Water Safety Day

Jun. 19, 2013 @ 11:42 PM

Visitors and participants in Dollywood's Splash Country's fifth annual Water Safety Day got a little more water than they expected Tuesday.

Light showers were present throughout most of the program, which ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but the rain didn't hamper activities.

Sponsored by Dollywood and the East Tennessee Children's Hospital, Water Safety Day is designed to teach children water safety practices through booths set up around the wave pool by various organizations.

After registering, kids went from booth to booth with their "Splash Pass" cards. At each stop, they were given water safety information and then asked to answer related questions. If they answered correctly, their cards were stamped and they could move onto the next booth.

American Red Cross, East Tennessee Children's Hospital, Safe Kids Greater Knox Area, New York Life, Pigeon Forge Fire Department and Pigeon Forge Police Department manned stations at the safety day. Volunteers at the stations asked questions such as, "What should you put on your skin before going into the sun?"

Once they'd visited all the stations, the kids could exchange their completed cards for prizes, including sunglasses and floating keychains.

"One of the biggest things we want to get out there is, drowning is the biggest killer of kids ages 1-4, so that's why it's so important," said Erica Estep, public relations manager for East Tennessee Children's Hospital. "The other thing is to get them to take home what they learn here. Most of the drownings happen in private pools at homes, so we're vested getting them to take this stuff home to prevent that from happening."

Children also got a chance to participate in an attempt to break the world record for largest swimming lesson. The lesson was performed in conjunction with hundreds of other locations across the country.

Ryan Buechner of Sevier Aquatic Club conducted the Splash Country lesson. The 30-minute lesson focused on basics of water safety, including safe water entry, submerging and holding your breath under water, floating, and basic swim strokes.

"Some kids go to the pool for the first time and they don't know what's going on, so it's always important to learn a little safety and get some fun with it, too," Buechner said.

The target number for breaking the world record was 25,000 people. Dollywood's Splash Country contributed 128 people Tuesday.

rhargett@themountainpress.com