When we send our children to school or summer camp, we rest assured that they will be kept safe from potential harm. After all, our educational institutions diligently teach our little ones about fire safety, regularly conduct lockdown drills, and have protocols for various emergencies. But there’s a glaring gap in this protective shield: water safety, which remains the number one killer of children ages 1-4.
Our latest Water Safety Champion, Kori Delapeña, is a fierce advocate for water safety education in childcare facilities. After tragedy struck her home, rather than being consumed by grief, she channeled her pain into purpose, embarking on a mission to ensure no other parent would have to endure such a loss.
While many safety measures have been embedded into our schooling systems, the silence around water safety is deafening. But with a Water Safety Champion of the month like Kori leading the charge, there’s hope that this oversight will soon be a thing of the past.
A Moment That Defined A Lifetime
Kori’s world was shattered when her six-year-old daughter, Cati, tragically drowned under the care of a summer camp. Cati had been born with Down syndrome, and so, her parents took many precautions, including those around water.
Aware of the challenges posed by their daughter’s diagnosis, they prioritized physical and occupational therapies needed for daily functions over swimming. Kori acknowledged that while they maintained general water safety norms, such as ensuring life jackets at the beach or pools, the intricacies of water safety were something they were largely unaware of. Kori lamented that vital water safety information was conspicuously absent from pediatricians and daycare providers, stating, “I wish somebody would have put fear in me.”
With Cati’s unique needs in mind, Kori extensively researched summer camps to ensure her daughter’s safety. After finding High Hopes camp, which had high marking reviews, she communicated Cati’s challenges and was reassured about her safety at the pool. The camp’s reassurances, however, proved hollow, and tragedy struck.
Kori’s story highlights a gap in our system. It begs for more substantial water safety measures for children attending pool activities under the care of a licensed childcare organization such as camps or schools. She also recommends parents always conduct thorough checks of any institution’s licensing and history through the state’s licensing websites as a proactive measure for protecting their child’s wellbeing.
Live Like Cati
In the face of unimaginable loss, Kori and her husband, John, founded Live Like Cati. Armed with grief and passion, the two set out to ensure that no parent in the state of Texas ever suffers loss as they did.
Live Like Cati has spearheaded efforts to teach water safety across Texas summer camps, provide life jackets for free, and train camp staff comprehensively. A whopping 1800 hours of training and over 1600 life jackets delivered attests to their dedication and desire to see safety at the forefront.
Educate, Advocate, Legislate
With a glaring void in water safety training within childcare facilities, Kori was propelled into the legislative arena, realizing the weight of her mission after a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigator named Angel advised her on this course. She discovered that drowning is the number one cause of death for children under 5 in the nation, and yet there was absolutely no training or language about drowning prevention in the child administration code. She found this alarming as childcare ratios are high, and when it involves water activities, the risk factor heightens.
They’ve collaborated with the likes of Colin’s Hope and the Health and Human Services Department, and come September 1st, Texas will see the introduction of HB59– Cati’s Law. The law mandates childcare organizations to verify swimming capabilities and ensure non-swimmers wear USCG life jackets before entering the gates of a pool.
“It wasn’t just about Cati. It was about every child and parent,”
Kori reflects, underscoring her drive to protect all children. Through legislative efforts, Kori hopes to establish systems that will incentivize childcare providers to prioritize water safety. Research supports her approach, showing that financial penalties or legal consequences can drive behavioral change.
Thank You For Making A Difference In Water Safety!
Kori’s journey from grieving mother to Water Safety Champion is a testament to her resilience and determination. Partnering with many drowning prevention organizations and getting the backing of Texas legislators, she’s been able to bring about tangible changes that will protect children and ease the minds of parents and caregivers.
Her advocacy serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of water safety education and the critical role each one of us plays in preventing such tragedies through legislation.
Thank you for being a Water Safety Champion!
If you are making a difference in water safety and drowning prevention or know someone who has, we want to hear your story.
Please take a moment to share the story on our website for a chance to be nationally recognized as a Water Safety Champion.