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Safety stressed for children on water
Safe Kids joins corps for event
Russ Lundstrum, left, pins a "junior deputy" badge on Jackson Rusnak, 18 months. The family was attending a boat safety event at Charleston Park. - photo by Autumn McBride

Kids grow so fast. That’s why local authorities joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Charleston Park on Saturday to check life vests before children went on Lake Lanier.

"You’d be surprised how many children have old, worn, tattered life jackets because [parents] think once they purchase them, they’re good for a lifetime. But they’re not," said Forsyth County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Shelton.

"Once they’re ripped or torn, or there are holes … they need to be replaced."

That’s where the corps comes in. Agency volunteers JB Thomas and his wife, Avra, gave free life vests to children who lacked them and talked about the corps’ many safety programs.

Children can collect ranger cards in exchange for a free life vest. There’s also the trade-up program, JB Thomas said.

"If the child has their own life vest and they grow out of it, if it’s in decent shape, they can take it to the Army Corps of Engineers office in Buford and they’ll exchange it and give them the next size up absolutely free," he said.

"Last year with our life vest programs, we actually had no drownings at the lake on corps beaches. But we’re trying to promote safety all the way around the lake."

Saturday’s event was organized in conjunction with Safe Kids Forsyth, a collaborative effort between Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the county’s fire and sheriff’s agencies.

Shelton said the group was working to educate parents about the dangers on the lake.

"We talk about drowning and hazards that are up under the water, things that you can’t see from the top side of the water," he said.

"We’re all working together to make sure kids are not in emergency rooms in the summertime and that they’re out enjoying themselves."

The local organization, which formed in February as the local chapter of Safe Kids Georgia, is not limited to lake safety, Shelton said.

The initiative covers all unintentional injuries, including car crashes and bicycle accidents. Authorities check helmets and car seats for safety.

The organization also works with local hospitals, civic groups, businesses and schools countywide to develop programs that help reduce childhood injuries.

"We’re doing everything we can to educate parents and children both on how to stay alive," he said.