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Get your float on

Jamie Mackay, 4, and big brother Joey, 6, visited Buck Lake last Wednesday with relatives Beth and Tobias.  A life jacket loaner station has been established at the park from the Safe Kids program, the county and the North Kitsap Fire and Rescue. Jackets are available on the honor system at the park during park hours. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Jamie Mackay, 4, and big brother Joey, 6, visited Buck Lake last Wednesday with relatives Beth and Tobias. A life jacket loaner station has been established at the park from the Safe Kids program, the county and the North Kitsap Fire and Rescue. Jackets are available on the honor system at the park during park hours.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Life jacket rentals a must in sunshine and summertime.

HANSVILLE — In the warm sunshine, Buck Lake fills with summertime splashing as kids test their swimming abilities close to shore.

One of those kids is 4-year-old Cormack, “mac and cheese” Burke, although he’ll also give another, more comical last name if asked.

On Wednesday Burke was at the lake’s edge with his parents, all geared up to hit the water as his dad, John, finished buckling his “Finding Nemo” life jacket.

It’s one of the new rental life jackets available at a kiosk newly installed at the park. The jackets are free to use and borrowed on the terms they are returned upon exiting the park — it’s on the honor system.

“I think it’s great,” said Burke’s mom, Bridget. “We usually carry lifejackets in our car for kayaking but we didn’t have it today.”

Watching her son hit the water with his dad, she laughs as they have swimming competitions.

“I want to float,” Burke yells.

And, thanks to the “Finding Nemo” life jacket, that’s what he does.

“A well-fitted life jacket gives watchful adults extra time to reach a child in trouble,” said Michele Laboda, spokesperson for North Kitsap Fire and Rescue. The department’s personnel are taking it upon themselves to make sure the kiosk stays stocked.

“It’s a resource there that makes it easier to take that extra step of helping their child,” she said. “It’s one element in children’s safety around water. The clearest, easiest way is vigilance on the part of adults.”

The life jacket kiosk will open each year from May until September. The idea, spearheaded by Safe Kids of Kitsap County, gained a huge following to prevent children from drowning.

Drowning is the second leading cause of death for kids younger than 17 years old.

Washington’s death rate (14 drownings in a population of 1,000,000) is higher than the national average (13 in a population of 1,000,000).

Many people pitched in to make sure the loaner station came together, including a local Eagle Scout who built the kiosk and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, which donated many of the lifejackets.

According to a press release by Safe Kids, similar kiosks are set up throughout the state but Buck Lake is the first loaner program at a water recreation site.

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