Ten public officials including the mayor, police chief and a King County Councilman are teaming up this month to combat drowning in Des Moines and Normandy Park – but which one(s) will ‘Walk the Plank’ at Mt. Rainier Pool Saturday, April 19?
Each participant is prepared to walk fully clothed off the Mount Rainier Pool diving board if their supporters pledge the most money to help support swim lesson scholarships for disadvantaged youth – to vote online, click here.
Their efforts are in response to statistics that show eight people drown in Southwest King County last year, four of them within the City of Des Moines. The Des Moines Pool Metropolitan Park District Board of Commissioners determined it was time to act.
“Our job is to promote aquatics within the community. It became obvious with the release of those figures that we need to focus on water safety in general,” Commission President Gene Achziger said.
“We could just teach people about water safety, but swim lessons are the number one deterrent to drowning,” Achziger said. “But swim lessons can be expensive for those with little income so we’re raising money to help disadvantaged youth learn to swim.”
Billed as “Walk the Plank for Kids,” the campaign involves the public voting at $1 per vote which public official will be “forced” take the walk. Voting will be both online and in person at Mount Rainier Pool’s observance of April Pools Day on April 19. April Pools Day is a nationwide promotion of water safety.
Des Moines Mayor Dave Kaplan, Police Chief George Delgado and King County Councilman Dave Upthegrove will be joined by Des Moines city councilmembers Melissa Musser, Jeanette Burrage and Jeremy Nutting, plus Normandy Park City Councilwoman Stacia Jenkins, Des Moines Municipal Judge Veronica Alicea-Galvan, Des Moines Harbormaster Joe Dusenbury and Des Moines Pool Metropolitan Park District President Gene Achziger in the competition.
The Walk the Plank ceremony will be the highlight of a five-hour water safety exposition that includes two sessions of demonstrations, two open swims, an Easter Egg Hunt and raffles for life jackets and free pool parties. There will be food vendors as well as marine touch tanks staffed by Highline Community College’s Marine Science and Technology Center.
Oh yeah, there will be free fish, too.
“Each person who shows up and has parental permission can get a free fish from Midway Tropical Fish and Pet,” Achziger added. “We’d like to see all of the kids in the community able to swim like fish.”
Achziger called the level of community participation “overwhelming.”
“It’s truly inspiring to see how enthusiastically these participants have jumped in. They understand the critical need to teach kids how to swim,” he said. “You’d expect some of them to say walking the plank is undignified for a public official, but I’m reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s quote: ‘No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.’ ”
The pool district has teamed up with South King Fire and Rescue to sponsor the event, along with several vendors and organizations. Other sponsors include: Schwan’s Ice Cream, Freedom Snacks, Normandy Park Market, Odd Fellows Lodge 305, Underwater Sports and Des Moines Animal Control.
“We’re looking at two sessions. The first begins at noon with water safety demonstrations and a free open swim,” Achziger said. “The intermission will include the Walk the Plank event and be followed by a second round of demonstrations capped with a free swim.”
“Plus, it’s the day before Easter and we’ll have an in-pool egg hunt with prizes. But hopefully the biggest prize will be a water-safer community,” he said.
Mount Rainier Pool is located at 22722 19th Ave South in Des Moines; (206) 824-4722.