Florida Rotarian devoted to saving people from drowning
As an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, Jim Underwood devoted his career to saving people from drowning. Now retired, he’s enlisting Rotarians to take up the same cause.
“I spent 33 years working on the ocean,” Underwood says, “but it wasn’t until after I retired that I learned that drowning is the No. 1 cause of accidental death for children between the ages of one and four – not on the ocean, but in their own backyards.”
At a symposium of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, Underwood met Blake and Kathy Collingsworth, whose two-year-old son, Joshua, drowned in the family’s pool in 2008. Determined to keep their son’s memory alive, the couple started the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation, and Blake wrote a children’s book about water safety called Josh the Baby Otter. The Collingsworths began giving copies to elementary schools and delivering presentations about staying safe near water.
While he was president-elect of his Rotary club, Underwood was looking for a project, and distributing the books seemed perfect. Local Rotarians have handed out 7,000 copies so far, and Rotarians in more than a dozen states have started distributing the books too. (Learn how your club can get involved at www.joshtheotter.org.)
“I’ve always had an affinity for the water,” says Underwood, who grew up surfing and sailing in California. “My father was in the U.S. Coast Guard, and I’ve dedicated my life to mariners. I see this project as saving future mariners. Rotarians have an opportunity to educate parents and children and save lives.”
Read more stories from The Rotarian or sign up for the digital edition.