July 12, 2008

Kennedy Park Swimming Pool Swimming and Supervision

By Scott Taylor

Hours of operation (through Aug. 15)

1-3 p.m., 3:30-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday

12:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and SundaySwimming and supervision

Lewiston lifeguards do much more than sit pool-side

It would have been easy to miss the toddler, barely 2 feet tall, among the crush of kids waiting to get into the Kennedy Park pool Thursday.But Aquatic Director Katie Lacasse saw him.

Barefoot and bare-chested with the top of a diaper peeking out of his oversized swim trunks, he was headed right for the splash pad. Lacasse knew that diaper would swell up to ridiculous proportions the moment he hit the water, so she scooped him up.

"Do you need a swim diaper?" she said.

Staff at the pool keep waterproof diapers on hand for young swimmers and sell them for $1 each. Regular diapers are not allowed in the pool, so a sister was dispatched to get a dollar from their mother, sitting on the grass beside the pool.

Clad in his new diaper, the boy toddled off to the splash pad, his sister veered off to the big pool and Lacasse continued on her rounds, sending some children off for water diapers and administering hugs to others.

But she's no baby-sitter, Lacasse said. "Everyone working around the pool is a certified lifeguard."

That means they're all qualified by the American Red Cross to provide CPR and first aid.

Still, staffers at the Kennedy Park pool spend as much time baby- sitting as they do life-guarding. They help hunt for lost shoes, procure diapers and bandage boo-boos. It's part of a city program that provides free swimming daily for five hours, as well as free breakfast and lunch for children younger than 18.

"I love the program we have, and I love seeing the kids," Lacasse said. "It's almost like a summer camp, and we even do crafts in the morning."

Since swimming is free, the city doesn't track how many show up. But staff does require every young swimmer to have a parental permission form on file in the office. So far this summer, 390 youngsters have registered for the pool - and more come every day.

At its busiest, during the hottest days of the summer, the pool will be packed with as many as 70 swimmers, most of them neighborhood kids, middle-school age or younger.

"They are our regulars, from year to year," said lifeguard Amanda Adamen of Turner. "I like to work with the kids, and they like us. I've even seen some of them wear whistles around their necks because we do, and they want to be like us. That makes you feel good."

It's not all diapers and hugs. Actual life-guarding does happen, said Kayla McGrath of Lewiston. A minimum of four lifeguards are stationed around the pool when swimmers are in the water. She's had to perform two rescues this summer, both when small children wandered into the 6-foot-deep end.

Despite the absence of parents at the pool, young swimmers are generally well-behaved. Running around the pool seems to be biggest problem, and even that's not a big deal.

"If they misbehave, they get a timeout," Lacasse said. "They have to sit out along the side of the pool for a few minutes, and so they mind their manners. It's hot and it's no fun and nobody wants to have to get out of the pool."

Originally published by Staff Writer.

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