By: Ernie Wren
Did you know that drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death for children between the ages of one and four (CDC.gov)? For children ages five to fourteen, it is the second leading cause of unintentional death after motor vehicle crashes. Every year in the U.S., there are approximately 4,000 fatal unintentional drownings, or approximately 11 per day (CDC.gov). During its approximately 30-year history, there have been no recorded drownings at the Ashland Optimist Community Pool. This can be attributed to the amount of training received by the lifeguards, coupled with a great amount of diligence and teamwork. While many might consider the success of swim season to be focused on dollar amounts, or the numbers of swimmers, the ultimate number that matters the most is having no one drown. Now that the pool has officially closed for the season, with the final event being the annual “doggie swim,” the Journal asked Swim Pool Committee member Jennifer Zagorac to share information about this year’s successes, as well as the story of a life saved by lifeguard Adah Zagorac, her daughter. Adah is a first-year lifeguard, having spent the previous two years as a volunteer Junior Lifeguard. Here is her story:
Being a lifeguard entails a lot of responsibility, as well as certification through American Red Cross and mandatory weekly in-service training. This keeps the lifeguards ready for emergent situations. They are trained in safety procedures to deal with everything from minor cuts to spinal injuries and drowning. This summer, that training saved a life. Lifeguards originally identified the swimmer as someone with weakened skills who continued to go into riskier depths and activities. The lifeguards communicated their concerns to each other at each rotation, and each guard continued to specifically monitor his activities. As he went over into the deep end it became clear he was not able to tread water effectively and needed assistance.
Lifeguard Adah Zagorac blew her whistle and jumped into the pool from the deep-end stand. She hoisted him on top of the lifeguard tube and swam him to the edge. Managing Lifeguard Kyra Hoey was on the shallow-end stand, she observed the save and continued to watch the other swimmers. Lifeguard Landon Rehg jumped into action from the concessions shack to take over the deep end stand observation. Lifeguard Addy Pasley ran from the shack to support in the save and help the swimmer out of the water, while Lifeguard Harper Hanarhan remained in the shack ready to receive orders to possibly call 911 and/or bring the backboard for a spinal save or AED emergency. In the end, the swimmer was able to pull himself together after he exited the water.
Fortunately, saves are few and far between at our small pool. Every season the lifeguards train for this event while they hope it will never be needed. It’s a big moment of their lifeguarding careers and their own personal growth in being able to perform a save effectively and as a corresponding team when the situation does sporadically occur.
This year we had 12 lifeguards, who served 3 local daycares and the YMCA along with local patrons and families from Ashland and Columbia every day of the week. Most of the lifeguards also provided private swim lessons to kids from the local area and from Jefferson City and Columbia. The pool was busy from 9am-10pm most days. Pool Committee volunteers each spend no less than 10 hours each week working on scheduling, ordering concession supplies, repairs, pool vacuuming and balancing chemicals. They arrive as early as 5am to start the 4+ hour vacuuming process and have balanced chemicals as late as 12am.
Over the past few years, the pool has lost water every day. Each season cracks were sealed and resealed but locating the source of the main leak was unsuccessful year after year. Finally, this past spring large chunks of concrete fell from the deep end wall, revealing large 5-foot cracks in multiple places. The areas were treated, refilled, and sealed. This is the first year in several years that water was not lost! The pool lights were replaced this spring as well, from basic GE white lights to multiple color changing LED ones.
There are several capital and operational expenses under consideration to keep the pool open for the foreseeable future. There will likely be some fee increases to offset some of the expenses and increasing wages, please check the website in 2024. The Pool Committee is unfortunately losing a valuable volunteer after several years of service. If you are considering ways to contribute or have a pull to volunteer, please give the Ashland Optimist Pool Committee consideration. Seeing so many happy swimmers and lifeguards grow and contribute to their community is very rewarding.