SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. — Pedroza says there’s no better way to kick back than by lounging by the lake at Pilgrim Haven Park in South Haven.
“Really relaxing,” said Pedroza.
The West Michigan mom’s ease of mind during this trip to the beach was due to the gear fitted on her daughter and younger siblings.
“I just felt like it was safest for the kids because sometimes they don’t want me to hold their hand and they want to move freely and stuff,” said Pedroza.
Pedroza’s family is one of an estimated handful to have used a new life jacket loaner station at the park. Installed just before Memorial Day weekend, it aims to keep people safe in the water.
“If you’re uncomfortable in your swimming abilities or if the water is a little chilly and you want to make sure that you’re safer, this is a great way to add that extra component,” said Pam Ford, Safe Kids Greater South Haven coordinator.
In 2019, Safe Kids Greater South Haven put in its first board at Van Buren State Park. The organization worked on the project with a local Eagle Scout, who lost his grandfather to a drowning.
Each station is equipped with four life jackets in four different sizes, infant through adult extra large, and are free to use.
“We just ask them to put it back on their way back to their vehicles,” said Ford.
According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 56 of the 109 drownings last year happened on Lake Michigan, with 11 at local beaches.
First responders in South Haven responded to a total of 23 incidents involving people in distress.
Ford says the numbers underscore the program’s importance.
“We have a lot of folks who come to enjoy our Great Lakes and we certainly want to share in the beauty and we certainly don’t want anybody to lose a family member,” said Ford.
Safe Kids Greater South Haven is looking to add more life jacket loaner stations along the county’s shoreline.
Bronson Health Foundation and a local business donated the life jackets and wood needed for the project.
To learn more about the organization, click here.