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Water safety continues to be an important lesson

Tribune file photo WCER, the YMCA and the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office will be holding community water safety classes on Saturday at the Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center in Willmar. The classes will teach children ages 6 to 11 important water safety tips, as well as help them become comfortable in the water. The classes first started in 2016. Photo taken in August 2016.1 / 3
Tribune file photo Water safety classes on Saturday morning will instruct people on how to assist people in distress without putting themselves at risk.2 / 3
Tribune file photo Children at the water safety classes will learn how to properly wear a life preserver, among many other safety tips.3 / 3

WILLMAR — For the third year, Willmar Community Education and Recreation, the Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA and the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office are partnering together to offer basic water safety lessons to Willmar children and their parents.

From 9:30 to 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center participants will learn the importance of water safety skills during community water safety awareness classes.

"We are very appreciative we can work on it together," Pam Vruwink from WCER said.

The classes began in 2016, following the tragic drowning of Idris Hussein and Ahmed Hashi. WCER and its partners wanted to do something to help avoid similar tragedies. The safety lessons offer those who perhaps have never had access to large bodies of water the opportunity to not only become more comfortable around water, but learn how to help in an emergency.

"Learn how you can still be of help without putting yourself in danger," Vruwink said.

Volunteers and lifeguards will teach children 6 to 11 years of age how to float, the correct way to wear a life preserver and also how to assist someone in distress. Parents or guardians also need to attend.

"It is valuable information for everyone," Vruwink said.

The Sheriff's Office will be on hand to show children the department's rescue boat, allowing them to climb in and see what being in a boat is like.

"A lot of kids don't have that opportunity," Vruwink said.

The community classes are free of charge and there is no need to register. Children should bring a swimsuit and towel, though there are suits available for children who do not have their own.

A shuttle bus, provided free of charge by Willmar Bus Service, will pick up and drop off people at several locations starting at 9 a.m. and running through the event, taking riders to the Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center. The bus stops at the Regency West Trailer Park shelter, Sunwood Apartments, Islamic Society of Willmar, the southside of Lincoln Park, Cardinal Manor Apartments and Dana Heights Apartments.

In case of bad weather, the classes will take place at the YMCA indoor pool. Vruwink said she hopes any weather announcements will be made at least 24 hours beforehand.

The safety classes use a combination of curriculum from the American Red Cross and the YMCA. While the class won't teach a child how to swim, it will hopefully give them useful tips to use when they are around water.

In its first two years the classes have taught dozens of children and families.

"We've heard great feedback from the parents," Vruwink said.

This year the partners hope to reach out to even more people, to increase the number of people they teach.

"That has just been wonderful. Word of mouth is so important for events like this," Vruwink said.

Those looking for more information or adults wanting to volunteer can contact Vruwink at 320-231-8490. The YMCA is also available for questions at 320-222-9622.