Four children died in the Iowa River this past summer - a trauma the community is still trying to overcome.
The silver lining in these shocking tragedies is Marshalltown's perseverance. As is common in Marshalltown, community leaders quickly came together to look for solutions. We are serious about addressing the ongoing problem of water safety near the river.
Several proposals have been offered from signage around the river to cooling stations during the hottest summer days. However, we feel, as with many other problems the best solutions can be addressed with education. In that effort, the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA is leading the way.
This month, an effort began to start educating a group of 200 fifth graders in a 16-week swim lesson program. In addition to learning life-saving skills, the youth will receive a swimsuit and a life jacket. The program educates youth that might not otherwise feel safe around water, or wouldn't have a fighting chance should they find themselves in danger.
Immigrant youth, not dissimilar to the three Burmese children who lost their lives in the river, could benefit the most from this program. Also, Marshalltown has something to gain from teaching these children. By reaching this group of children, we are reaching their parents. Safety could become a conversation around their dinner tables. Siblings and cousins will be eager to hear about the instruction they are receiving at the YMCA. In essence, the instruction will take place at the Y, but the conversation will continue in the homes of refugees who are still finding their way in our community. While it's a program directed at youth, it's also an outreach program to a population we're still getting to know.
However, with the quality programming offered at the Y comes the expense. Program leaders said it costs about $100 per child for the education, and the two-year program will reach about $20,000.
As some of the community's larger employers have pulled out their respective checkbooks, we ask that you might do the same.
We think the long-term strategy of water safety education is a solution that will work. We also think it's a program that deserves your financial support. Make a donation in memory of the children we lost this summer - Andres Favela, Leh Meh, Sae Reh and Thay Mo. This program can honor their memory, and help children just like them learn the life-saving skills they need.
How to donate: Drop off your donation at Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA, 108 Washington St. or call 641-752-8658.