Family creates swimming program in honor of teen who drowned

Wanda and Josh Butts. (Source: The Josh Project)
Wanda and Josh Butts. (Source: The Josh Project)

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - As the weather starts warming up, kids are going to start making a splash in the water. Before they do, one group is pushing for more kids to learn how to swim.

"I miss him so much," said Tankeeya Butts.

John-Joshua Butts' sister cannot believe it has been almost six years since her brother died. The 16-year old fell off a raft in a Michigan lake and drowned because he did not know how to swim.

His family formed "The Josh Project" to give kids access to affordable swimming lessons.

"I'd almost rather have him than the program, but it's just an opportunity to. We're making the best of it," said Butts.

On Tuesday, Butts is visiting four of Toledo's inner city schools spreading the message that kids can learn how to swim.

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that African-American boys drown at higher rates than Caucasian boys.

"A lot of it is access and opportunity to swimming, and also, it's just not - and I don't mean to sound cliché - but it's just not common in the African-American culture," explained Butts.

The family is not alone in the fight. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is joining them, teaching kids the importance of wearing the right life jacket whenever around water.

"It's important 'cause if it doesn't fit right and you fall in, it's gonna come off and you don't want it coming off," said Ed Fairchild with the U.S.C.G. Auxiliary.

Together, they are taking a tragedy from nearly six summers ago and making it part of their mission in life.

"We came to the kids. We're not expecting them to come to us. We're going to them because it's so important that they get this message," said Butts.

Josh's mother, Wanda, was just named a CNN Hero for her efforts. Read the story here.

Learn more about The Josh Project.

Copyright 2012 Toledo News Now. All rights reserved.