Free Ballgame and Healthy Choices
By Dianne Anderson
Baseball fans will flock by the thousands to watch the Inland Empire 66ers batter up against Lake Elsinore Storm, and connect with dozens of fun, games and resources at the 2nd annual Home Run for Health.
This time around, Riverside County is focused on May, the nationally recognized Water Safety Month with a subject that is also personal for Serena Smith.
Smith almost lost her two-year-old son, Darnay, who slipped to the bottom of the pool after his father turned away for a minute to place juice packs on the table at a community event. At the time, the pool was filled with adults, parents, coaches, and teens and no one noticed.
“They said, no, he’s not in here. There were people in the pool. My husband said, no, and jumped in,” she said. “He kept going [on CPR] and he didn’t stop. We’re just happy we have our son with us.”
Now grown, Darnay Smith, a Santiago high school running back, is today a healthy 18 year-old 198-pound reminder of the importance of pool safety. His mother and father speak often about the memory that still brings them to tears to think of what could have happened.
Kids are naturally drawn to water, not just in pools, but in tubs and toilets, and even a bucket of water can turn tragic. A toddler’s head is too heavy to lift themselves out.
It happens again and again.
Darnay is soon heading off on a scholarship to Sacramento State University. Recently, he excitedly texted his mom that he is now CPR certified through his school sports medicine program.
She was also invited to speak after another school tragedy, the Murrieta case of 13-year-old Alex Pierce, who died 34 days after drowning while on a high school excursion two years ago. That case is now under a wrongful death lawsuit.
She believes all high schools should be trained in CPR and certified for what is usually a one-day life-saving course.
“Darnay was lucky because he was part of the sports med program. They want everyone certified for CPR,” she said. “You hope you never have to use it, but you can save someone’s life.”
Kerri Mabee, spokesperson for the Riverside University Health System and a friend of the Smiths, hoped that by bringing so many parents together in one place at one time, it can create community awareness.
Drowning is the largest preventable cause of death for kids under four years old.
At the event, kids get a free fun zone, a kids parade, nutritional resources, WIC, along with several programs tabling information. Parents can access county agencies, a wealth of healthy free community programs. Last year, the event drew over 5,500 participants.
Soon it will be hot outside, and she said parents will also be reminded once more to never leave their kids in the car unattended, which is dangerous and often fatal.
On May 3, the event will be held again at San Manuel Stadium, 280 South E Street, San Bernardino. Free admission is limited, but available. Each family limited to two vouchers, covering eight tickets, and parking is $7.
Mabee said the healthy baseball team effort was an undisputed hit last year. The event is in partnership with Riverside University Health System – Public Health, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health and the California Health Collaborative – Tobacco Control Program.
“We are excited. We have a lot of folks coming to the ballgame to have fun, but they get to hear good health messages,” she said.
Lana Cao, spokesperson for San Bernardino Public Health Department said their focus is physical activity this year. She said they are pushing the community to get out more and move. They have plenty of free local resources available to help step up to better health.
Last year’s huge participation is also sparking ideas of how to bring the effort even wider. Eventually, she said health programming may expand to other local sporting events throughout the year.
“We thought Riverside County has a baseball team, San Bernardino County has a baseball team, why not make it a public health event,” she said. “We all teamed up because it was such a success last year. It was a good way to get the community for us with the #vision2bactive campaign.”
Some people don’t want to join a gym because it costs more than they want, or can afford, to pay, but she said there are healthy choices all around.
The county is encouraging the community to check out www.vision2beactive.com with its map showing areas where they can get out to hike, jog and many activities to help hit their 3,500 steps every day.
“It’s really awesome,” she said. “You can look up the trails, you can look up parks, it’s a good way to appreciate nature, and it’s a good way for physical activity.”
For more information, see rivcowatersafety.org