HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- It’s a tragic title to hold: “The Sunshine State leads the nation in child drowning deaths”. But, leaders and law enforcement in Hillsborough County are hoping to change that.

  • Hillsborough county officials to host swim a thon
  • Swim a thon intended to reduce deaths caused by drowning

On Saturday, the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office partnered with the Office of the Public Defender, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Tampa Police Department, Tampa Fire Rescue, and Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA for an inaugural swim-a-thon to raise money and awareness about drowning prevention.

Swim instructors in the Bay Area said tragedies can happen in a matter of seconds and it's never too early to start teaching safety.

Katherine Pendzick is a mom of two and was also one of dozens who jumped in the pool and swam laps for a good cause. Money raised will pay for swim lessons for local families in need.

"They're curious, they're going to go to water to see what's going on and the chance of them falling in is high if you're not around," Pendzick said.

"These are preventable tragedies by raising awareness and raising money for lessons .. we're going to help save some lives," State Attorney Andrew Warren said.

Just last week, a 9 year old boy was pulled from a pool at a Tampa apartment complex and rushed to the hospital in critical condition. YMCA aquatics instructors said they start giving lessons to children as young as 6 months old and education is key.

They said parents need to pay close attention and safeguard their pools because even the smallest amount of water can still be a threat.

"Even if its a dog bowl, it's a bucket of mop water, or if it's a really shallow pool .. you never know how children are going to react," Aquatics experience Director Jennifer Quijada said.