The chief author of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act wants national funding for swim lessons, according to remarks at the eighth annual National Drowning Prevention Symposium.
“Last month, I joined my colleague, Congressman Albio Sires
(D-N.J.), in introducing a Congressional resolution, expressing the
importance of access to swimming lessons for all communities in the
United States as an integral part of drowning prevention. The
resolution encourages public and private funding to support current
and future initiatives that provide all children with access to
swimming education,” noted Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
(D-Fla.) — who sponsored the controversial law — in her
keynote address to approximately 170 professionals at the Miami
Beach, Fla., event.
She also asserted her position that pools not in compliance with
the VGB Act should be closed, and shared her efforts to gain
federal funding for education and enforcement of the legislation
(later appropriated in the budget signed by the president on March
11, 2009). Hosted by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, the conference
saw record registration.
Reflecting on Wasserman Schultz’s remarks, NDPA President
Johnny Johnson praised her commitment to safer water venues.
”The Congresswoman addressed VGB and went beyond that,
sharing her desire to see swim lessons funded on a national
front,” Johnson said. “That was music to my
He added that her audience included Nancy Baker, daughter-in-law of
former Secretary of State James Baker III and mother of the late
Virginia Graeme Baker, the 6-year-old entrapment victim for whom
the legislation was named.
Themed “Lighting the Way to Safer Waters,” the
conference focused on more than just VGB. As NDPA president,
Johnson said it’s been his goal to develop greater
collaboration between all parties focused on safe swimming. To
further that effort, the symposium included the inaugural Drowning
Prevention Summit. Leaders from 19 national organizations —
including the U.S.
Coast Guard and the YMCA— met to share ideas on working
Tom Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation in Colorado
Springs, Colo., noted the collaborative spirit.
“This one was different,” Lachocki said. “If you
were to ask ‘What brings you to the symposium?’ you
tended to get answers like, ‘My 2-year-old daughter drowned
four years ago.’ That was troubling, but I was touched to see
people really trying to come together.”