Ahead of a weekend reported to have temperatures in the mid-90s, Stew and Kim Leonard joined with Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin at the Veteran’s Memorial Park and Pool, in East Meadow, on July 16 to remind residents about water safety.
Clavin said that the town has received a doubling in the demand for pool development this summer. “People are putting these pools in because they have a hesitation to go out and visit public pools or beaches,” he said.
The spike in the number of residents installing pools is also bringing with it a spike in the number of drowning incidents. Just last month, a woman drowned in her neighbor’s pool in Suffolk County. And in New Jersey, an eight-year old girl drowned in a backyard pool and two of her family members drowned trying to save her.
“That’s the stark reminder of why we are here,” Clavin said.
In addition to owning the Stew Leonard’s superstore, with a location in East Meadow, Stew and Kim Leonard also run the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation.
They have a personal motivation to help families avert pool-related tragedies. Roughly 30 years ago, the couple lost their 20-month old son, Stewie, who drowned in what “seemed like a split second,” Kim said.
Now, the couple has a one-year old grandson who they’re teaching to swim using the lessons outlined in their children’s book “Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim.”
Through the foundation, they have raised over two million dollars to go toward water safety and education, lifeguard training and swimming lessons.
Kim’s number one tip, she said, is to always have a dedicated watcher when any child is in a pool. “And put the phone down because that’s a huge distraction,” she said. Kim added that adults should ensure their children know not to go near a pool or hot tub without adult supervision.
“They’re turning their tragedy into something that will save thousands of lives,” Clavin said. He also announced the importance of adhering to Town of Hempstead pool safety requirements.
To be granted a pool permit, the town’s building department mandates that residents install a five-foot fence around the pool, secure and lock entrances to above-ground pools and equip their pools with an alarm if their home is part of the enclosure — among other requirements.
Temperatures remained in the mid-90s through Monday, July 20, and, to help residents avert the heat, Clavin extended the hours of operation at town beaches to 7 p.m. and at pools to 8 p.m.
“During this weekend’s heat wave, many Hempstead Town residents sought relief at pools and beaches across America’s largest township,” Clavin said. “We’ve decided to keep our pools and beaches open for extended hours to give more residents the opportunity to ‘cool down’ from this extreme heat.
Capacity restrictions at beaches and pools remain at 50 percent due to the state’s pandemic guidelines. And the town’s EMS team, led by Medical Director Dr. Dave Neubert, will be on patrol at town beaches to assist in the case of an emergency. And, should any power outages occur, residents could call PSEG Long Island at 800-490-0075 or visit psegliny.com/outages.