NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk’s Stew Leonard Jr. grew up around the water and wants to help others learn to enjoy the water safely.
So when Norwalk’s Maritime Aquarium approached him with the idea for a water safety event with his Stew Leonard III Children’s Charities, he jumped at the opportunity. “We were honored that they selected our foundation,” Leonard told Daily Voice.
On Thursday, Leonard was on hand for fun and learning with Stewie the Duck and the water safety experts.
The event included a special reading by Stew and his wife, Kim, of “Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim,” a book that the family penned. Stewie the Duck also led children in singing Stewie’s signature song, “Don’t Jump In ’Til You Learn to Swim!”
Leonard said he hoped children and families would take away the importance of water safety from the event. He said they can take simple steps to be safe around the water.
First, he said it’s “extremely important” for children to wear a life jacket. They should also take swimming lessons, he said.
Leonard also advises parents to be careful with their families around the water and never let their children swim alone, especially now that families are seeking to cool off in the heat.
“This is a very dangerous time for parents right now,” Leonard said. “You have to keep your eyes on those kids 24/7 when they’re around the water."
Stew and Kim Leonard know from experience — they founded the Stew Leonard III Children’s Charities in memory of their son, who lost his life in a drowning accident.
Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, who attended the event with state Sen. Bob Duff, praised Leonard for making the event possible.
“They took their tragic story and they turned it into a powerful message that has helped thousands of young people and families learn how to swim, learn water safety,” Rilling said.
“It’s really something where they’re giving back so much not only to Norwalk — not only to Fairfield County — but to the entire country,” Rilling said.
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