Spring brings a focus on water safety: Kennett ‘Y’ leads the way

Kennett Area YMCA guards receive Gold award

By Kim Chiomento, News Editor, The Times


Greater Brandywine Y’s Chase Darden – Challenging his team to “Be the best at what they do.”

KENNETT SQUARE – Spring is finally making its arrival; and for many area residents that means increased time spent near lakes, pools and other recreational facilities where water is a big part of the fun. These activities also raise the level of awareness placed on children, and adults alike, to be water safety smart; and to know the basics of how to save themselves if they are in harm’s way.

In addition to personal awareness and training, many count on area life guards as the next step in their protection. How knowledgeable and prepared are the life guards where you and your family are spending time?

For members of the Kennett Area YMCA, the answer is easily found. The Kennett Y proudly announced that its lifeguard team, under the direction of Chase Darden, Assistant Director of Aquatics – Brandywine YMCA, was awarded the prestigious Gold International Safety Award by Ellis & Associates.

Ellis & Associates lifeguard program is widely recognized as the aquatics industry safety leader; with an international client base of water parks and other aquatic venues.

For members of the Y who have experienced the thoroughness of its guards, the gold rating may not come as a great surprise. But, what may be news, are the rigorous standards it guards are held to in order to achieve this status. Gold rating only occurs after consistently exceeding expectations of the safety criteria throughout the course of each year.


Members of Kennett Y’s aquatics team: (from left) Kate Bolten, Omar Shakhshiro, and Steven Stewart responding to a simulated emergency.

Part of the process of earning the gold rating included unannounced visits from Ellis & Associates to evaluate and document exactly how the guards are monitoring the pools. Resources used to do so included hidden cameras recording guard scanning, behavior and safety protocol. After recording, Ellis & Associates makes their presence known in the facility and guards are then also taped responding to a simulated emergency situation, evaluated on their professional knowledge and response time.

In 2015, the Kennett Area Y’s lifeguards received a highly regarded silver rating, “At our Y, we are intentional about always trying to make things better. Last year, I challenged my staff team to not only be better, but to be the best at what they do,” says Darden, “Earning the Gold Award is how they responded; which is a remarkable achievement and makes me proud to be a part of such a great group.”

With so many members of the community using the Ys indoor and outdoor facilities, this ranking brings additional credibility to an already highly regarded institution. “The most important aspect is that our members and guests can have the utmost confidence in our lifeguard staff and peace of mind that when they are in our facilities, they are always in a safe environment,” says Darden, “This is especially significant to those with families in our programs and to those with health concerns or special needs.”

Community outreach is core component of the YMCA’s mission. The Kennett Y offers a community summer SPLASH Week, during which, youth of all ages are taught the fundamental and potentially life-saving skills of back floats and proper kicking.

This year, the Kennett Consolidated School District is partnering with the Kennett Y to offer every 2nd grade student in the district swim lessons during May and June. This program will fall under the Y’s school year SPLASH program. Darden notes, “Drowning is a leading cause of death among young children; this opportunity to teach them at an early age can make an impact that lasts a lifetime.”

The Kennett Y and its affiliate network, the YMCA of Greater Brandywine, offers swim lessons for all ages and abilities and basic CPR classes. Additionally, for those wishing to become certified lifeguards classes are offered monthly that teach lifeguarding skills, CPR, AED, Oxygen, First Aid and as a part of their studies, students will also experience simulated emergencies and how to respond to them.

“It is important that our community knows that they can count on the Y and our staff to provide the best experience possible, and feeling safe and secure is a large part of that,” says Darden. To learn more about your YMCA’s various aquatics programs, visit: www.ymcabwv.org.

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