State officials say 98 children drowned in 2021, and a swim instructor at Swim Gym in Bradenton says even one child drowning is one too many.By Casey Albritton

BRADENTON, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, a record number of children drowned last year in Florida, with many experts saying its because children had more access to pools during the pandemic.

State officials say 98 children drowned in 2021, and a swim instructor at Swim Gym in Bradenton says even one child drowning is one too many.

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For Infant Swimming Resource instructor, Anita Pope, the sound of a crying baby during a swim lesson, is a sound she views as hope.

“I actually know of a child who drowned and it was just important for me to get my kids skilled…once I watched the process, I decided that’s what I want to do,” said Pope.

She owns Swim Gym in Bradenton, Florida, where Monday through Friday, she teaches babies and toddlers how to survive in the water.

“We teach what we call swim float swim, for children who are 12 months and walking, and older. And for our babies, we start at six months and what we teach them is a self-rescue float,” said Pope.

Pope says child-drownings happen more often than you’d think, and for Cassie McGovern, it’s something she knows all too well.

“Our daughter, Edna Mae, found her way out to our backyard pool on August 3, 2009,” said McGovern.

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McGovern’s daughter died from drowning. She says it was a normal day for her family…and it was one the day they forgot to close the gate to the pool.

“Every single one of us tell the same story, we just didn’t think it could happen. We just didn’t know. My mission and what I’m screaming and running with is it can and what are you going to do to prevent it,” said McGovern.

Now McGovern travels across the state encouraging people to sign their children up for swim lessons, especially after hearing that the Florida Department of Children and Families is reporting 98 children drowned in 2021. The previous year that number was 69.

“When I’m sharing these numbers, I take each and every one personal like it’s Edna all over again,” said McGovern.

Chloe Bellan’s son goes to swim lessons with Pope, and she says those skills are invaluable.

“I think everyone should do it. I recommend it to everybody,” said Bellan.

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“There’s water everywhere. Having the basic skills is what’s going to save these lives,” said Pope.