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I would just like to extend a heart-felt thanks to all at the Avila Bay Club for opening up your doors to Steffi Saul-Ketzler and her Baby Seals Program. Our 19 month old boy Bodhi is just completing his 6 week program with Steffi. My wife, Stacey and I, are impressed and amazed at how far Bodhi has come. Our jaws drop and our hearts swell, as we see our little guy, all dressed up in his winter clothes, get dropped into the water. He goes down like a rock, but quickly and calmly wiggles his way back up to the top. He reaches for air with his little mouth and rocks his back just right to get his body with all of his soggy clothes to float on the surface of the pool. Calmly, and with a little smile of satisfaction and pride, he floats on top of the water and breathes! When he is ready, or hears the cue, he quickly turns face down and swims to our hands, or to the stairs. If he can’t make it, he flips over onto his back, and calmly breathes until he is ready to swim again. I can’t tell you in words how it felt to see him do this several times last week, eventually working his way over to the stairs where he climbed out and gave me a great big hug!

It hasn’t always been so easy for us either, though. As many of you know, there is a fair amount of crying going on in addition to the smiles, laughs and hi-fives. As a dad, I can tell that Bodhi’s cries, and the cries of the children before and after him, are not cries of pain, nor cries of fear. For the most part, they are cries of discomfort. They are sometimes asked to do things they are not ready to do. Things that are challenging. It is the discomfort of being asked to do challenging things in an unfamiliar environment that are at the root of the crying. I think this is a normal reaction, and as a dad, an acceptable discomfort that is a small price to pay for learning such an important skill – and that is what is being done in the ABC pool. These infants and toddlers are learning a life – saving skill. They are not learning just to play in water. They are learning to survive.

Our family lives just a few blocks from the beach. Bodhi is at the beach, probably 4 or 5 times a week. His mom and I are avid surfers, so we are always drawn to water. We camp near creeks and lakes, and when we visit our family in Arizona, everyone has a pool. We feel so much safer now that we see what Bodhi and Steffi are accomplishing.

Drowning is the number one cause of death of children under 5 in our state (1). There is no doubt in my mind, that what Steffi and The Avila Bay Club are doing, is saving lives. Perhaps, even the life of our only son, Bodhi. So again, thank you Steffi. Thank you Avila Bay Club, and thank you members, for your life-saving support.

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