Josh the Otter helps Rotarians teach water safety


Published:

Mary Ann Ferrara, coordinator of the project, is helping the Rotary Club of Viera acquire a Josh the Otter costume.

Viera Voice Courtesy of the Rotary Club of Viera

The 33 members of the Rotary Club of Viera had a bit of a sticker shock when they checked out the price of a Josh the Otter costume. That’s the life-sized mascot that accompanies the Josh the Otter Water Safety and Awareness Project embraced by the Rotarians International.

“They go for $2,000 new and $1,200 “gently used,” said Mary Ann Ferrara, the coordinator of the project for the Rotary Club of Viera.

The Rotarians don’t mind the price tag, because funds benefit the Josh Collingsworth Memorial Foundation, dedicated to keeping children safe around bodies of water. Josh the Otter was named after toddler Josh Collingsworth, who drowned in a pool during a family gathering.

Water to children means fun, but it can be deadly. A toddler can drown in just a few centimeters of the liquid. Worldwide, drowning ranks among the top three causes of death from unintentional injury. The rates are highest among children younger than 5.

Josh’s parents, Kathy and Blake Collingsworth, honored their son’s memory by creating the educational foundation that teaches children to stay away from water unless accompanied by an adult.

The Foundation created “Josh the Baby Otter,” a book that helps children comprehend and remember the important message. Rotarians spread the life-saving message by visiting schools to read the book to preschoolers and kindergarteners. An otter was chosen as the mascot for a very important reason.

“Baby otters never swim alone,” explained Ferrara.

During May, which is National Water Safety Month, the Viera Rotarians will visit six elementary schools to tell Josh’s story to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes. This is the second year of the project for the three-year-old Rotary Club of Viera. Last year, it reached more than 650 children at five schools. The number is expected to increase this year, since the group has added a sixth school to the list.

Until the Viera Rotarians can come up with the funds for their own otter costume, the Merritt Island Breakfast Rotary Club has graciously offered to lend them theirs.

Who is the Viera Rotarian who transforms into Josh the Otter?

“Anyone who is a member of the club and can fit into it,” Ferrara said.

For more information, call 321-258-6569 or go to vierarotary.com. For more on Josh the Otter, go to joshtheotter.org.

To donate, send checks to the Rotary Club of Viera/Josh the Otter Fund, 7341 Office Park Place, Suite 2020, Melbourne, FL 32940. VV