Quinn tips hat to area kids

Quinn tips hat to area kids

DANVILLE — It's not every day that the governor comes to your hometown, let alone shakes your hand and recognizes you and your classmates for something you've done.

But that's what happened to 14-year-old Peyton Blodgett and the other members of the North Ridge Middle School Problem Solvers on Thursday.

Gov. Pat Quinn honored the 14-member group and their sponsor, Lori Woods, for creating the "Liquid Lifesavers" project, which took top honors at a state competition and third place in an international competition this summer. The program aims to "dry out drowning" by teaching youth and the community about water safety and making water-safety education available to all children, regardless of their family's income.

At a news conference at the David S. Palmer Arena, Quinn not only congratulated the group for their contribution to their community and awards, but also read a proclamation declaring Thursday "North Ridge Middle School Problem Solvers Day."

"It was pretty unbelievable," said Blodgett, who will be a Danville High School freshman this year.

The problem solvers group looked at several topics last fall, but kept coming back to youth water-safety awareness. In July 2013, two children — 11-year-old Survella Chapman and 3-year-old Brysom Dillon — drowned in two separate pool accidents on the same day.

"A couple of the kids knew Survella from the East Park (School gifted) program," Woods said, adding the students researched water safety and developed an educational and awareness program "from the ground up."

The main goals of the program call for: educating the community about water safety in natural waterways, public places and at home; finding a way to offer swimming lessons to all children; and creating a first-responder program that's free to anyone in the community.

"One of the things they found in their research is anyone who has had water safety education combined with swimming lessons, it's 88 percent less likely that they will drown," Woods said. "They also learned that if a first responder gets to a person who's drowning in the first two minutes, it doubles the chance of survival. We ran several free CPR sessions, and the group and several of their classmates got trained."

The group took their program — which includes a Power Point presentation, video and fun, interactive games — to Danville's eight elementary schools. They also lobbied the Danville City Council for the removal of two dams, where several drownings have occurred in the last decade, and shared with them some of the drowning statistics they discovered in their research.

Blodgett and Kaleb Medina, a North Ridge eighth-grader, said the problem solvers will continue the project this year.

"Our main focus will be to get a bill passed to put the ... water safety program into all (physical education) or school curriculums," Blodgett said, adding the group will work with state Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, to do this.