There’s nothing that ruffles Stewie the Duck’s feathers more than neglecting water safety rules, and the life-jacket wearing webbed-foot friend is making it known to thousands of Rialto first graders.
“Don’t jump in ‘til you learn to swim… cover your chest with a safe life vest…”
Stewie, with the help of his life-saving friends from the Rialto Fire Department, kicked off his annual water safety program at Curtis Elementary teaching youngsters the importance of being safe in and around water.
As part of the lesson, firefighters read and sing along to Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim.
The program was founded by Kim and Stew Leonard Jr. in 1990 and teaches children and parents the importance of water safety. The Leonards’ turned their personal tragedy of the accidental drowning of their toddler son into inspiration and created the invaluable program.
Rialto Fire Department adopted the lesson nine years ago after Rialto accounted for nearly 50 percent of fatal drownings in the county between 2005-2006, according to the fire department. On average, there were six to seven fatal drownings in the city with 13-14 near-drownings a year.
Last year, only one drowning death was reported and two near-drownings were accounted for, said Matt Payne, Rialto fire’s drowning prevention coordinator.
“Without the efforts of Stewie, those numbers could be higher.”
Each year, the department reaches 2,000 students within the Rialto School District through the water safety program. All 19 elementary school first-graders participate in the program, which runs through the end of the month.
To learn more about the Stewie the Duck water safety program, visit www.stewietheduck.com.