Y Notes

More than a class, Stacie's Otters is a life lesson

  • Ronda Graff
  • 31-Jan-2019

In 2010, the McCook YMCA started a new program, “Stacie’s Otters,” which promoted “Float Early, Float First, Float for Life.”

The purpose of the class was simple: to promote safety around water from a young age, as young as 9 months old.

Since then hundreds of infants and toddlers have taken the class, which gives them skills to use throughout their life and also includes parental education. While we can never know how many lives have been saved because of the program, it remains a valuable introduction to water safety.

The program is named in memory of Stacie Shaddock, who along with her husband, Jeff, were both actively involved at the YMCA. Among their many roles at the Y, Stacie taught swim lessons for a time and Jeff led the fund-raising for the “Save the Wave” pool renovation.

After she passed, it was a natural fit to create a program in her honor at the YMCA, with her family and friends underwriting the program through financial gifts to the Y.

The one-on-one classes are designed to teach children how to breath in the water by rolling onto their back and floating. This life-saving technique can give a child those few extra seconds that could save their life.

Stacie’s Otters does not replace regular swim lessons, but rather enhances a child’s ability to be safe around water...and we’ve got plenty of opportunities in Southwest Nebraska from the surrounding lakes to the public and private pools, even the Republican River, although that idea seems unfathomable most of the year.

I contacted Gigi Slatter about her twins’ experience in Stacie’s Otters. Jackie and Kale were enrolled in the inaugural class in 2010 and completed both Otter I, designed for 9-18 month olds, and Otter II for 18-month to 3 year olds. And while she loves Stacie’s Otters and recommends it to everyone, the class did not start off too smoothly for the twins.

“The kids did not like it at all,” Gigi said. “I remember them just crying a good part of the time in the beginning.”

But after just a short while, they got used to the water and even started to enjoy their time in the pool.

“I remember that at just two years old, Jackie was able to float and swim the entire length of the pool with no fear,” Gigi said. “I know it would not have been possible without those classes.”

Even today, Gigi thinks the program is must for all kids.

“To this day, the kids love the water and it gave them the courage at any pool or lake,” she said. “And the program gave us the security of knowing they can handle the water.”

Because the program is designed for the attention span...and patience...of 9-month-olds through 3-year-olds, each class is just 15 minutes: 10 minutes in the water for the instructor and child and 5 minutes of parent education. Each session is one day a week for two months or two days a week for one month, depending on the session enrolled in.

The cost is $20 per session, but financial assistance is available by calling the Y.

For more information about Stacie’s Otters or any of the swim programs at the Y, visit the Y website, www.mccookymca.org or call 345-6228.