After her son tragically drowned fifteen years ago, Karen Cohn, a Connecticut native, is now raising awareness about swimming and water safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the greatest cause of death for children between the ages of one and four (CDC).
The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending families and caregivers to “offer swim lessons” as pools begin to reopen following pandemic shutdowns in the previous two years as summer approaches.
Zachary, Cohn’s second child, used to be “very thrilled” anytime he had the chance to play in the water, she recalled. When the family moved into a brand-new home with a pool in 2007, Zachary was six years old.
While speaking to Good Morning America, Cohn said, “The house was a new house with a new pool and proper fencing was in place and there were alarms on the doors leading outside and we really made sure that the kids were closely supervised when they were swimming.”
Cohn continued, “Unfortunately, we had no idea about drain entrapments, what a drain entrapment was,” adding, “We had no idea that it was even a risk in a pool. Never heard of it before.” Drains in pools help in cleaning and circulation of water. However, if a drain cover is missing or becomes loose, it could lead to unsafe conditions.
Talking about the same, Cohn said, “The cover had become loose over one of the drains in our pool and my son Zachary’s arm became stuck in it, and he was held underneath the water and we could not get him out.” The family shut the power down to release him, but Zachary could not survive.
Zachary’s death devastated the family, but Cohn and her husband Brian were inspired to start The ZAC Foundation in Zachary’s honour.
The group is “committed to improving water safety by sponsoring advocacy, education, and effective programmes to safeguard children and their families,” according to its website.
In 2021, Cohn started a podcast called “Keeping Kids Safe” with episodes like “Data Driven Solutions for Drowning Prevention” and “From Family Tragedy to Positive, Lasting Change” in an effort to inform more parents during the epidemic.
Cohn now works to educate the public and parents on water safety, whether it be at a pool, a beach, or even just in one’s own backyard. She stated: “We always stress that there is adequate supervision. Due to their hectic schedules and the fact that many parents now work from home, there has been a lack of supervision.” As the weather warms up and we spend more time in the water, she continued, “We just want to urge parents to be thinking about this.”
Cohn wants people to understand that “swimming is pleasurable.” But, she continued, “We want families to enjoy the water together. However, we also want children to be aware of the risks.”
Cohn currently holds the position of NE Trustee for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and major media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN, and Fox News have all publicised her work.