First graders dive into “Stewie the Duck” Water Safety program

Rialto Fire Department and its feathered friend, Stewie the Duck, were on deck Monday at Merle S. Casey Elementary School kicking off an annual drowning prevention program and ensuring youngsters soaked up the ABC’s of water safety.

The program, “Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim,” is a nationwide program aimed at first graders and adopted by Rialto Fire in an effort to continue student and water safety education as warmer weather approaches.

Firefighters plan to visit 19 schools during the Stewie the Duck program and highlight the “ABC’s” of water safety; A’ for Adult supervision: constant eye contact with children in and around water, ‘B’ for Barriers: fences around the water and alarms on doors that lead to the water and ‘C’ for Classes: swimming lessons for the whole family and CPR in case of emergencies.

By the end of the two-month program, which is expected to wrap up May 22 at Kordyak Elementary, firefighters will have introduced Stewie the Duck and water safety rules to nearly 2,000 first graders in the Rialto Unified School District.

“Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim,” was founded by Kim and Stew Leonard Jr. and teaches children and parents the importance of water safety. The Leonards turned their personal tragedy of the drowning of their toddler son into inspiration and created the invaluable program.

This year marks Rialto Fire’s seventh year participating in the literacy and safety effort in collaboration with the Rialto school district. The hope is to decrease children’s drowning statistics, said Rialto Firefighter Matt Payne, who coordinates the annual water safety program.

By the end of this school year’s program, Rialto firefighters will have read to about 14,000 students in the district, Payne added.

“Rialto Unified is a strong, receptive district when it comes to opening doors for us to educate the students. The teachers, support sites and administration, at every level, have been cooperative to work with,” said Payne in a news release. “It strengthens us all when we have the best interest of our kids in mind.”

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