Out of tragedy comes hope
By MICHELLE DAY
CHRIS Simpson looked to the sky and made a pledge to his two-year-old grandson, Hugo, who drowned in a backyard pool on New Year's Eve.
"Your death is going to make a difference."
It was New Year's Day and the well-known Coffs Harbour businessman's resolution for 2007 was to spread the water safety message.
The ex-competitive swimmer called his mate, swimming coach and child water safety champion Laurie Lawrence, who he had 'known for years'.
Yesterday, Laurie was on-stage at the Jetty Memorial Theatre singing and dancing along with 750 children as part of the Kids Alive ? Do The Five pantomime.
Joining him on-stage were several embarrassed-looking school teachers, Gold Coast Titans coach John Cartwright and official Scott Sattler, Lil the Lifesaver, Boo the Alien and Wise Owl.
"It is very hard to get John Cartwright to dance," Laurie joked afterwards.
Coffs Harbour students from preschool to Year 4 attended the free pantomime which was extended from two shows to three to cater for demand.
"Coffs Harbour was so supportive of the show," Laurie said.
Although the Kids Alive message has aired nationally since 63 youngsters drowned in 2000, 37 children aged up to five years still drowned last year. "Even the most loving parents can't watch children 24 hours a day," Laurie said.
"The Kids Alive message is seeing results, but not enough yet.
"It really hits home when tragedy comes to your own community ? that's why I want to be here supporting the Coffs Harbour community."
And, of course, his mate Chris Simpson, who said yesterday was part of the healing process for his family.
"Rachael (Hugo's mother) thinks it will help, being involved in something like this. Hopefully it can make people more vigilant in child safety around pools," Chris said.
"It is such a tragedy. This is how we can turn it into a positive."