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Local swim school offering water survival lessons to low-income families

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Posted at 3:47 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-24 05:28:42-04

RIVERVIEW, Fla. — Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death among children ages one to four. Last month, 11 children lost their lives in Florida alone.

There is a nonprofit swim school in Riverview that’s offering lessons to families who otherwise may not have the opportunity.

Teaching a toddler how to swim is personal for Kari Bahour. Twenty-two years ago, her own son almost drowned after falling into a pool while no one was watching.

“It was the most horrific experience to watch your child completely blue and not responding. I immediately called 911, shortly there after paramedics came in, and by the grace of god, he started coughing up water, but it could have very well ended differently,” said Bahour.

From that day forward, Kari made it her life’s mission not just to teach kids how to swim but how to survive if they were to end up in a body of water accidentally.

“By either rolling onto their back, floating, screaming, calling out for help, swimming to safety or both, swimming and floating, swimming and floating, until they reach safety,” said Bahour.

Bahour started Water Smart Tots in 2014. The swim school offers scholarships to low-income families throughout Tampa Bay.

“If a child qualifies for Medicaid, or food stamps or any sort of public assistance they qualify pretty much for free swim lessons, we cover the cost about 90%,” said Bahour.

Dawn Zitko is caring for eight adopted and foster children at home. She said water safety classes shouldn’t be a privilege; they should be a necessity.

“Water Smart Tots has given families and us the opportunity to make sure our kids can be safe in case of an emergency or accident, and you just can’t put a price tag on that; it’s just been a huge blessing for us,” said Zitko.

For more information on Water Smart Tots, go to