GREENWICH — The 120 kids who were part of ZAC Camp for the past four days proudly displayed medals Thursday that said they were trained in swimming safety.
“We set out to keep kids safe in the pool,” Karen Cohn, co-founder of ZAC Camp, held at the boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, said after Thursday’s closing ceremony. “When we saw all the excited kids today who learned so much, it was wonderful. It’s great to see that it’s working. It’s great to see that this program is successful.”
Cohn and her family started the camps through The ZAC Foundation she and her husband Brian formed after the 2007 death of their son Zachary. The 6-year-old drowned in a backyard swimming pool after his arm became trapped in the suction of a swimming pool that had an improperly installed drain.
Since then, the couple has been working around the country with ZAC Camps to stress the ABCD’s of safe swimming: having an adult nearby, having gates or fences around the pool to prevent unsupervised access, swimming and water safety classes and drain safety.
This week’s lessons were reinforced with in the pool, classroom lessons and meeting with Greenwich first responders.
At Thursday’s closing ceremony, the kids were joined by Zeke the bear, the hero of the Cohns’ children’s book “The Polar Bear Who Couldn’t, Wouldn’t Swim.”
The 2017 ZAC Camp included children from both Stamford and Greenwich. Cohn said it was important to have as many children learning as possible.
“Everything went incredibly well,” Cohn said. “The children from Stamford just got a pool at their club and didn’t have the experience in the pool like a lot of the Greenwich kids. We were able to work with everyone and ease their fears and make sure they knew how to be safe in the water.”
Overcoming fear is one of the other key lessons of the camp, Cohn said, along with lessons by Olympian swimmer Rowdy Gaines. Gaines, who has three Olympic gold medals for swimming, got into the sport after failing to make the cut at several other sports, he said.
“Something like that is so inspirational for the kids,” Cohn said.
Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich CEO Bobby Walker Jr. said bringing children from Stamford and Greenwich together had an added bonus.
“If you watched the last day here and you watched the kids, you would have no idea who is from which club,” Walker said. “What you saw was a bunch of kids all together having a blast. …I had kids telling me how much fun they were having.”
An important mission of the club and the ZAC Foundation is to help give underserved populations swimming and water safety lessons, Walker said.
“I told all the kids today to make a promise,” Walker said. “I asked them to raise their hands and told them to promise to teach something they learned here this week to someone else, whether it’s a family member or someone at school or in the community. All of the kids raised their hands and promised. It shows that it’s important not just what they take, but what they take away from the lessons here.”