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Free ZAC Camp for Water Safety Begins Monday at Mahackeno for 1st-3rd Graders

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Participants at a ZAC Camp held at the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich earlier this spring.

The Westport Weston Family Y is proud to host the first annual ZAC Camp at the Family Y’s Mahackeno Outdoor Center. Taking place June 4-8, from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm each day, ZAC Camp will teach local 6- to 9-year olds the importance of water safety through a fun and engaging mix of swim instruction, classroom lessons about the ABCDs of water safety, hands-on activities and games, plus safety lessons from local First Responders.

To register your 1st-3rd grader, contact Meaghan George, Family Y Youth and Camp Director, at 203-226-8981, ext. 179; mgeorge@westporty.org.

Offered free of charge to all participants, ZAC Camp at Mahackeno is sponsored by The ZAC Foundation, a Connecticut-based water safety advocacy and education organization established in 2008 by Greenwich residents Karen and Brian Cohn, who tragically lost their 6-year-old son Zachary in a pool drain entrapment in their backyard pool. The Foundation is devoted to educating the public of the importance of water safety to ensure no other family endures the loss of a child in a water-related tragedy.

“We are thrilled to partner with The ZAC Foundation to extend water safety education to our members and their families and other children in the community,” said David Cohen, Vice President of Operations for the Family Y. “The ZAC Camp’s fun and instructive approach has proven to be a great way to promote these critical life skills, which are especially important in coastal community blessed with hundreds of backyard pools and any number of aquatic and boating opportunities.”

The large outdoor pool at Camp Mahackeno will be the center of activity for ZAC Camp.

The area’s leading provider of swim lessons, the Family Y promotes water safety through ongoing programs such as the Hafaday Summer Swim Lesson Program, Lifeguard training classes and special events and activities, from Splash Week to this inaugural ZAC Camp.

“It’s important for parents to be aware that even though their children have had swim lessons, the unexpected can happen,” says Nicole Turechek, the Family Y’s Aquatics Director. “Childhood drownings occur most often in residential swimming pools, and the sad fact is, almost all are preventable.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years. A swimming pool is 14 times more likely than a motor vehicle to be involved in the death of a child under the age 4. Even if they don’t drown, victims still can suffer serious injuries; more than half of those involved in near-drowning incidents require hospitalization.

“ZAC Camp not only teaches kids about staying safe around the water, it also helps teach parents how to create a family water safety plan,” added Turechek. “We know what accidents can do to a family and we are so grateful that The ZAC Foundation is teaching children and their families how to stay safe.”

ZAC Camp will kick off on Monday, June 4 with a welcome by the Cohn family and will conclude with an awards ceremony on Friday at 5:00 pm featuring a special appearance by Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Rowdy Gaines. Representatives from Westport’s Police and Fire Departments, Westport’s Emergency Medical Services and the American Red Cross will lend their expertise to each day’s curriculum.

The ZAC Camp in Greenwich.

“One of the places that Zachary first learned to swim was at the Westport Weston Family Y, so this location holds a special place in our hearts. As we expand the Foundation and our ZAC Camps to more and more children across Connecticut and the country, it was fitting to bring our program here, where the organization, its members and employees have impacted our lives in many ways,” said Karen Cohn, Zachary’s mother and co-founder of The ZAC Foundation. “With the proper swim training, drownings are preventable, and ZAC Camps provide children and families with the information they need to stay safe in any body of water.”

The ZAC Camp at the Family Y’s Mahackeno campus is part of a national campaign led by the Foundation to teach children about water safety through community engagement and education.

To register your child for June’s ZAC Camp at Mahackeno, stop by the Family Y’s Member Services Desk or contact Meaghan George, Family Y Youth and Camp Director, at 203-226-8981, ext. 179; mgeorge@westporty.org. Space is limited to 100 children. Mahackeno Outdoor Center is located at 14 Sunny Lane, near the junction of Route 33 and the Merritt Parkway in Westport.

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  1. Liz Daines says:

    I’m grateful to the Y for constantly stepping up to teach our kids these safety basics. The past Splash Weeks also have been wonderful. The time and patient care the Y staff have given my children over the years has been much appreciated. All these opportunities provide essential support to families – and ensure a fun and safe summertime for our beach community. Thanks!!