South Charlotte

Free event: Keeping kids safe in the water

The scariest time for any parent is those few seconds when your child may wander from sight - made scarier when a swimming pool or body of water is nearby.

For Kelly Gaines, the seconds it took to save her daughter, 18 months old at the time, from a near drowning in the backyard pool gave her a new perspective on water safety and ultimately a new career.

"I was so blown away at the time. I swam, I was a lifeguard ... there was no sound, no splash, no ripple on the water where she fell in," said Gaines in describing how she pulled her daughter from the pool.

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional death for children age 1-14. It takes only a second for a child to start to drown. There typically is no yelling or waving of arms to alert someone; drowning is a quick and silent death.

The day Gaines, 49, recalls frequently happened almost 13 years ago to her daughter Allie, now 15.

After the incident, Gaines and her husband, Roger, 51, enrolled Allie in swim lessons, and almost three years ago, in December 2008, Gaines purchased Charlotte Aquatics, a 15-year-old swim-lesson center in Charlotte, to spend her time providing safety skills and encouraging a lifetime love of swimming and family safety.

"Luckily, our experience was not a sad ending," said Gaines.

With Charlotte Aquatics hosting close to 1,100 students to date and offering swim lessons for ages 6 months to adults, Gaines last year decided to offer even more, with a pre-summer "Safety Day."

The Charlotte Aquatics second annual Safety Day will be a free event May 15 - rain or shine - in the parking lot of the facility. The event will feature Gaines' water-safety advice, an appearance by The Danger Rangers and local police and fire departments, home safety and child-proofing information, water-safety story time and several family-friendly games with prizes, including Passports to Safety for the kids to complete.

As Charlotte Aquatics reaches its 15th anniversary this year, it's Gaines' goal to give back to the community through her affiliation with Make A Splash - a nonprofit whose goal is to teach kids how to swim - and as a member of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance.