Swimming for good: HAC Lifeguards Volunteer to train staff at Terry Children’s Center

By: Nathan Widom

Who would have thought that a simple phone call would turn into a life–changing volunteer opportunity?

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A straightforward phone conversation to the HAC Aquatics department inquiring about lifeguard training courses resulted in a volunteer visit to the Terry Children’s Center in New Castle on May 11th-13th. There, HAC lifeguard instructors Jack Rotsch and Kristi Siner trained the center’s aquatic staff and employees from Middletown’s Silver Lake Treatment Consortium, resulting in a beneficial and eye-opening experience.

Terry Children’s Center is a state-run facility operated by the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families that provides residential treatment, day treatment and crisis bed services for children and youth.

Terry Children’s Center Program Manager Jeff Hypes mentions, “The center operates a crisis bed program for children between the ages of 5-17 who require 24/7 care, as well as a residential treatment program for children between the ages of 5-13.” Also, when Covid-19 precautions are fully lifted, the Center will have a day treatment (school) program to serve kids ages 5-13.

After a pause in using the facilities’ pool during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Terry Children’s Center planned to restart their swim and water safety program. With a newly renovated pool that sat unused for about a year, they needed their staff to receive lifeguard training. Hence, they reached out to the HAC Aquatics Department for training assistance.

The conversation that initially intended to inquire about lifeguard training courses turned into a volunteer opportunity.

“HAC volunteered to come to Terry to train our staff, and staff at our sister behavioral health facility Silver Lake Treatment Consortium, at no charge,” mentions Hypes.

One might assume that the purpose of training lifeguards at a facility specializing in behavioral health care for children might differ from training lifeguards at HAC. However, both Rotsch and Siner found that overall there were no major differences. According to Rotsch, the only change in the training was that it had to be specifically designed for the Terry Children’s Center pool while still adhering to course guidelines. As a result, the lifeguard training from Rotsch and Siner provided huge help to the center.

HAC lifeguard instructors Jack Rotsch and Kristi Siner

“The staff are thrilled that we have so many lifeguards and the ability to use our pool again,” states Hypes. “I know our staff felt empowered and excited to complete this training, and I’m excited for all the possibilities going forward,” he mentions.

“Our residents love the pool,” he continues. “Since the renovations and training, the kids have been utilizing the pool in the evenings to burn off energy and on the weekends to relax. The activity is not only calming and relaxing for therapeutic effects, but also fun. They’ve been in the pool almost everyday since HAC has certified our staff!”

Like the students and staff at Terry Children’s center, our HAC lifeguards felt very positive about their experience. Furthermore, they felt volunteering to train lifeguards at a new location was an eye-opening change.

“My experience was very good. It was good to get out of the facility. It was nice to see new faces,” states Siner. “And it was also nice to learn a little bit about what the Terry Center does and what their goals are with using their pool because it’s for therapeutic purposes.”

Rotsch feels the same way. Unlike Siner, Rotsch previously trained lifeguards at institutions similar to the center. However, he was not familiar with the Terry Children’s Center before his visit. For Rotsch, knowing that his instruction will go forward and “affect many lives” was the best part of his experience. “It was just an all-around great feeling to help them out, and I’m happy we got to do this,” he concluded.

Both Siner and Rotsch would love to visit again and/or train at similar facilities.

“It was an awesome feeling to be able to help people and help the kids because swimming is therapeutic. I mean, it’s just fun,” mentions Siner. “I’m actually trying to go back and volunteer with them because I love hearing what they had to say about what they are doing.”

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Hypes is also satisfied with the experience and would love to continue to work with HAC in the future. “The relationship between Terry and the HAC began with a phone call and ended with a fantastic community partnership,” he states. “We are so grateful for the staff at the HAC giving their time and energy to train our team and help us support youth.”  

“[HAC] answered the call – quite literally – with grace, support, and enthusiasm to help us provide an important outlet for our kids. We look forward to continued partnerships in the future.”

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