ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.-The Tampa Bay Rays and utilityman Ben Zobrist, along with Bay Area YMCAs, United Way Suncoast, the Children's Board of Hillsborough County and the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County, will partner this summer to implement "Be Water Smart from the Start," a comprehensive drowning prevention plan for youth in the Tampa Bay area.
The "Be Water Smart from the Start" campaign, which opened with an aquatic safety awareness press conference on Friday, June 6 at the South Tampa Family YMCA with Zobrist, YMCA representatives and Rays Senior Vice President Mark Fernandez, was formed in order to increase drowning awareness and provide the community with access to drowning prevention resources.
"Be Water Smart from the Start" also includes a series of public service announcements featuring Zobrist explaining drowning risks and helpful tips for the summer.
"The Rays are proud to support this very important initiative," Fernandez said. "The statistics are troubling. The Rays and the Rays Baseball Foundation are committed to making an impact and ensuring our children are safe."
According to the YMCA, from 2005 to 2009, there was an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drowning cases annually in the United States and about one in five of those who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for nonfatal submersion injuries. Additionally, Florida has the highest drowning death rate in the nation for children under age 5 with more than 60 percent of these drowning deaths in Florida occurring in residential swimming pools every year.
"The Bay Area YMCA's are thrilled to have the Tampa Bay Rays as are our partner," said Executive Vice President and COO of Tampa Metropolitan YMCA Adam Klutts. "Together, we can help prevent childhood death due to drowning by teaching kids to swim and be safe around the water. Swimming is an activity that provides fun and exercise for their entire lives. Because of the Rays support, our children can 'Be Water Smart from the Start!'"
For more information and a number of aquatic safety tips, visit ymcatampabay.org.
With his involvement in "Be Water Smart from the Start," Zobrist joins Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (Reading with the Rays) and Manager Joe Maddon (Feeding America Tampa Bay) as spokespersons for major community initiatives in the Tampa Bay area in 2014.