As parents of a toddler and an infant, Jenna and Paul Roisum took almost every precaution when it came to childproofing their Seminole home.
Their cabinets had safety locks, off-limit rooms had security gates, and the above-ground pool was taller than the toddler, providing a level of security the Roisums were comfortable with.
But cabinet locks and safety gates couldn’t prevent the terrible tragedy that befell the couple’s 2 ½-year-old son, Mason, on March 27th, 2009.
As Paul went inside to check on his sleeping daughter, Mason slipped outside and somehow got into the pool.
Despite being in the water for less than a minute, Mason drowned, a tragedy that haunts Jenna Roisum because she knows that despite all her precautions, the accident was preventable.
“Because our pool was above-ground, I didn’t have the urgency to buy safety fencing,” Roisum related via email. “It was on the top of my list of to-do’s, but I thought the walls would be barrier enough. I never imagined my son would pull himself up the side, then lean over face first into a pool he was afraid of.”
Rather than let the heartbreak of losing her son crush her, Roisum decided to use her experience as a way to help other parents avoid going through a similar situation.
In October of 2011, the Roisums founded Mason’s Gift, a non-profit foundation with the sole mission of ending child drownings.
This Saturday, the foundation will host its second annual Mason’s Walk, a 5K run/walk at Lake Seminole Park, to help raise awareness of drowning prevention.
“According to the safe kids coalition – 58% of parents do not consider drowning a threat to their children,” Roisum related. “Yet, drowning remains the leading cause of unintentional deaths in children ages 1-4 nationwide, and Florida leads the nation in the number of unintentional drowning deaths for this age group.”
Roisum urges parents to take every precaution when it comes to protecting your children, especially when they are around pools.
“We thought, ‘He is never in the backyard alone, we are always here with him, this won’t happen to us.’ We are so safety conscious, and it still happened to us. Because we did not have enough layers of protection in use.”
Using donations raised through her foundation, Roisum has created a safety packet with tips on how to prevent accidental drownings. She also hopes to fund a swim program in the near future.
She says discussing water safety with children, teaching them to swim at an early age and making sure your pool has a cover are just a few of the simple steps parents can take to help ensure a tragic accident doesn’t occur.
“I want to educate the community about drowning prevention and water safety awareness,” she said. “I just want parents to know what we didn’t, because losing a child to a preventable death is just unbearable.”