Living in South Florida provides locals with a variety of opportunities to participate in water activities, such as fishing, boating, and swimming. But for many residents who aren’t able to swim, the water is a frightening and dangerous place. Despite living in a region that is surrounded by water, between 50 and 70 percent of children in Florida don’t know how to swim. The numbers are staggering and tragically this statistic is why more children in Florida die from accidental drowning than any other state in the nation.
This is exactly why Dan Volker and Jim Abernathy founded Project Seahorse, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to equipping children with the skills and resources needed to explore the underwater treasures that line our coast. With a mission to prevent drowning and encourage a lifelong love of the ocean, Project Seahorse introduces children to the underwater paradise that is available right in their backyard.
“A lot of kids aren’t as comfortable in the water as they should be,” Amy Blackman, recreation superintendent for Boynton Beach told the Sun Sentinel. “With Project Seahorse, we want them to become more secure swimmers so they can go anytime they want and inspire their brothers or sisters to start swimming.”
Over the summer, the collaboration between the Boynton Beach CRA, City of Boynton Beach Recreation and Parks Department, Boynton Harbor Marina, and Project Seahorse provided campers between the ages of 10 and 12 with the opportunity to strengthen their swimming skills, learn how to snorkel, and learn from professional marine biologists about marine ecology.
The culmination of the program occurred on August 1, when 23 delighted campers arrived at the Boynton Harbor Marina excited and anxious to board three commercial dive boats, graciously provided by Splashdown Divers, Loggerhead Dive Charters, and Starfish Enterprise. Although the original plan to explore the Lofthus, a Norwegian cruise ship that sank in 1898 about 200 yards off of the Boynton Beach coast, was thwarted by choppy seas, the children happily sailed into Boynton Bay, to explore marine life beneath the glistening water.
To many it was just another typical day in sunny South Florida, but for the group of camp goers, it was an adventure into the deep blue that many had never experienced. The children were eager to get off the boats and begin using their newly learned snorkeling skills to explore the relatively shallow waters of the area near the Boynton Beach inlet. Campers, along with the lifeguards and swimming instructors who accompanied them, were delighted to see clams, hermit crabs, and schools of fish swimming freely in their natural habitat.
Feeling queasy from the boat ride, Libriana Daceus was not able to partake in the snorkeling excursion. But the shy 12 year-old is happy that she and her fellow campers get to keep their snorkel gear, which she intends to use in her family’s pool.
Following a successful initiative in Boynton Beach for the second year in a row, Project Seahorse is sure to attract a mass of participants for the 2017 program. For more information on the nonprofit, visit their website.