BRYANT, Ark. — One Saline County father has a mission to make sure other parents don't suffer the loss he went through when his child drowned.
Brandon Love faced a parent’s worst nightmare nearly three years ago when his 2-year-old son, Bentley, drowned in a neighbor’s swimming pool.
Fast forward to now, the sound of splashing water is a constant reminder of his new life purpose.
"I have kind of made it my mission to be a water-safety warrior,” said Love. "Start swimming lessons with your kids as soon as possible, and please be vigilant. Always be aware."
Love now travels far and wide to different water-safety prevention seminars.
Part of his awareness venture led him to a new program close to home.
"Starting at six months, the first thing we work on is just going underwater,” City of Bryant aquatics director Kristin Robinson said.
The program is called Swim Babies. It’s a class at Bryant’s Bishop Park Aquatics Center for children between the ages of six months and three years.
"If they fall in, somebody can grab them and they know what to do underwater,” said Robinson.
The focus is much different than learning to swim; rather, the kids learn survival tactics to use if they find themselves face down in the water.
It's a course that comes as the number of childhood swimming deaths fail to improve in Arkansas.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health from 2015 to 2018, the number of child drowning deaths were on a rise. Fifteen pediatric drowning deaths have been reported so far in 2018.
“If you wait until they are older, they’ve developed a fear of the water,” Robinson said. “So, instead of panicking they know what to do. We even practice falling into the pool, turning around, grabbing the wall, and teaching them how to climb out of a pool.”
Love believes had his son Bentley had swimming lessons as a baby, he would still be here today.
"He could have known to roll on his back and at least float until he gets to the edge of the pool, or get back to the ladder to get himself out,” Love said.
So as swim season approaches, Love hopes his story inspires parents to choose drowning prevention.
"Losing your kid, it's not something I would wish on anyone,” he said. “My all-time goal is just not one more drowning.”
Parents should always be careful with flotation devices they trust their kids with. Those should always be coast guard approved.
Parents and caregivers should know how to administer CPR, too.
The Bryant Aquatics Center offers swimming classes for all ages. If you are interested in lessons, you can contact Bryant City Hall.