World's Largest Swimming Lesson makes a splash in Bethesda

Tens of thousands of kids on five continents splashed and paddled their way to a fourth consecutive Guinness World Record to combat childhood drowning Tuesday. Dozen of kids took part in The World's Largest Swimming Lesson at the Bethesda Country Club.

Two years ago organizer Laura Metro nearly lost her son Clay in a pool accident.

“He fell in the deep end and he drowned,” Clay says. “He was in a coma for two days. We didn’t know if he would live or die. We didn’t know if, when he woke up, he would have brain damage and he made nothing short of a miraculous discovery.”

Clay has since founded the C.L.A.Y. Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates for swim instruction, CPR training, and AED availability.

Drowning is the leading cause of death of children ages 1 to 5. Many more survive, but with permanent brain damage and billions in medical bills.

The most important lesson Tuesday was to learn to roll onto your back and float.

“You can teach a child to swim, but you need to teach a child to roll to the back to float, to get air, to keep them safe,” Clay says.

Children can start learning to float on their backs at six months.

Kid-friendly characters were on hand to make water safety fun to learn.

“Daddy’s setting up camp, putting the umbrella in the sand [and] she’s bolting for the waves. You need to have awareness around water. It’s dangerous,” says Jon Lowe, a parent.

Swim lessons cut the risk of drowning by nearly 90 percent, and Metro wants to get the word out.

“I feel I was given a gift, that my son is alive and that this is the mission that I have to do,” she says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, which has recommended kids start learning to swim at age 4, is now looking at lowering that age substantially because children can learn critical skills, like floating on their backs, much earlier.

Check out other websites to learn how to be safer in the water:

Safer 3 Water Safety Foundation

National Drowning Prevention Alliance

United States Swim School Association