Successful special events can be as easy as ABC. Just ask the staff at the Rancho Simi Recreation District in Simi Valley, Calif., who put that simple formula to work when creating the “ABCs of a Safe Summer.”

The one-day event, held in conjunction with the local fire department, American Red Cross and a local naval base, teaches kids how to have a fun and safe summer in the pool and throughout the community. Instruction includes bicycle safety and fire safety.

The staff distributed more than 18,000 event fliers to local schools and day-care facilities. “It really was a community effort,” says Gloria Bowman, aquatics coordinator for the Rancho Simi Parks and Recreation District.

In addition to swim-team demonstrations, the district incorporated its Rookie School lifeguard program into the event. The senior guards evaluate rookie guards, many of whom teach swim lessons to youngsters. Parents also were given the opportunity to have their children’s swimming abilities evaluated and to register early for summer swim lessons.

“[The evaluations] help to reduce the first-day anxiety for lessons because both kids and instructors know what to expect,” Bowman says. “The atmosphere is so informal… there’s time to talk with the staff, the children get to be with a variety of instructors, and the staff learns the value of lesson planning and the appropriate use of equipment.”

Another feature of the “ABCs of a Safe Summer” is the Super Guard demonstration, in which a senior guard is forced to control a difficult situation, such as reacting to children floundering in a rubber raft. In these situations, children can put themselves and other swimmers in danger.

“With this program, our guards receive positive reinforcement,” Bowman says. “We see them in action and the public sees our training, and it reinforces positive relationships and confidence.”