We’re all too familiar with horrific news stories about school shootings, teenage drug overdoses, and social-media-driven teen suicide. But these aren’t actually the country’s biggest causes of childhood death. The leading cause of death in children aged 1-14, after vehicle crashes, is drowning.
Although we’re deeply divided about how best to solve the issues of adolescent gun violence and drug abuse, the cure for saving kids from drowning is obvious: Kids need to learn to swim.
In some countries, like Australia and New Zealand, learning to swim is a mandatory part of the elementary school curriculum. Not so in the United States. Here, an average of 11 kids a day die from downing.
Kaci McGuire is doing everything she can to correct this situation. Kaci is the founder of Safe Swim, a swim school she launched in New Orleans in 2020 whose 6 instructors give swim lessons to people of all ages and abilities, starting with kids as young as 4 months.
When a child is sick enough to be admitted to the hospital, days or weeks confined to bed can feel like they drag on forever. Unlike adults, kids don’t have the life-skills to deal with the stress, anxiety and depression that can accompany a hospital stay. Not only does this make a kid’s daily life in the hospital miserable, it can also impede their medical progress. Multiple studies have found that a healthy mental and emotional attitude aids with recovery from illness.
So, given that children typically can’t call on coping mechanisms like yoga and meditation to improve their mental and emotional state, what can they do? Becca Chapman has the answer. Becca is co-founder & Executive Director of Prescription Joy.
Prescription Joy are healthcare clowns. Yes, actual clowns. With goofy outfits, and props like rubber chickens and toilet-plungers.
Prescription Joy is a member of the North American Federation of Healthcare Clowning, whose members include The Laughter League at Boston Children’s Hospital and The Clown Care Team at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Healthcare clowning is, indeed, a serious business.
Of all the behavioral aspects of our American society that have changed over the past few generations, little has changed more markedly than our perception of childhood. We used to believe that childhood was just an inconvenient period we were forced to endure until small humans got big enough to function independently and join the workforce. Today, we realize that perception is ill-informed.
We now recognize the value of child development, and the relationship between our childhood experiences and our happiness as adults. As we further break down childhood into its component parts, we appreciate how a single childhood experience can reverberate through our lives and make a world of difference. Something as seemingly innocuous as a joyous hour with a healthcare clown, or as simple as a swim lesson, can change or even save a life.
Kaci and Becca are quietly contributing to the betterment of the lives of New Orleans’ childhood inhabitants, and the rest of us too.
Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in the NOLA Brewing Taproom. Photos by Jill Lafleur.