On January 1, 1989, a 21-month old toddler lost his life in a drowning accident. This sparked his parents to pledge that they would do everything in their power to prevent this tragedy from striking other families, since drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children under five. In 1990, that toddler's parents, Kim and Stew Leonard, founded the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation in memory of their son. Since this time, the Foundation has raised more than $1 million dollars to go towards water safety awareness and education, including providing swim scholarships and lifeguard training, along with writing and publishing two children's books on water safety: Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim and Swimming Lessons with Stewie the Duck.
EXPANDING THE MISSION
Stew Leonard, Jr. is the president and CEO of Stew Leonard's food stores in Connecticut and New York. In addition to his work to promote water safety, through his family-owned food stores, he also became aware of the need to encourage healthy eating among children. The number of children who are at risk for being seriously overweight has tripled in the past two decades, and only two percent of children currently meet the recommendations outlined in the dietary guidelines.
Taking a cue from the success of the foundation's water safety educational efforts, in 2006 the Leonards broadened the focus to "promoting safe and responsible growth and development in kids through nutritional awareness and water safety." The foundation changed its name to the Stew Leonard III Children's Charities to reflect this new mission.
- The Leonards have published two books on water safety, with all proceeds benefitting the Stew Leonard III Children's Charities: Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim, a child's first guide to water safety, and Swimming Lessons with Stewie the Duck, which is about the skills and fears children face when they first start taking swimming lessons. A Spanish version of Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim, called El Patito Stewie Aprende a Nader, is available as well.
- The Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim mobile app for iPad and iPhone was introduced in April 2012. The ibook app, which is free of charge, is the first of its kind designed to promote water safety to children. It features read-to-me audio and contains interactive animations, sound effects, a memory game, and a sing-along.
- In 2012, all summer campers in grades K-1 through Girl Scouts of Connecticut received a free copy of Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim
and each camp's waterfront staff incorporated Stewie's message into their water safety and swim lessons.
- In 2011, Stew Leonard III Children's Charities partnered with the Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics to distribute more than 400 Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim books to pediatricians in an effort to spread the water safety message throughout the state of Connecticut.
- Stewie the Duck has been endorsed by Olympic Swimmers Janet Evans, Rowdy Gaines, Mark Greevers and Annie Chandler. The books have also been purchased by educational and water safety organizations throughout the country, including Long Island Spa and Pool, Phoenix Children's Hospital, Tucson Medical Center, Los Angeles County Fire Department, the State of Florida, National Water Safety Congress, Rialto Fire Department, Bass Pro, the City of Littleton, Co., Columbia Medical, Connecticut State University, and local YMCAs in Yonkers, N.Y. and in Danbury, Norwalk, and Hartford, Conn.
More than $120,000 in scholarships are awarded annually for swimming lessons through the YMCA and Swim America, a nationally certified learn to swim program offered by the American Swimming Coaches Association and the American Red Cross.
- In the summer of 2009, the Leonards published a coloring book version of their third storybook for children, The Healthy Way, teaching young children how to incorporate healthy eating and activity in a fun, engaging way.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- Stew Leonard III Children's Charities received a Regional Award from The National Water Safety Congress in 2013 for their contributions to water safety issues and programs within a multi-state area.
- In 2012, Stew and Kim Leonard were recognized with the Social Responsibility Award by the Yonkers Family YMCA
- Kim Leonard received The American Red Cross Tiffany Circle Award in 2009 for her work with Stew Leonard III Children's Charities.
- The National Drowning Prevention Alliance recognized Stew Leonard Jr. at their 2009 National Drowning Prevention Symposium for his advocacy in supporting community drowning prevention efforts and increasing education and awareness about children's water safety.
- The Yonkers, N.Y. YMCA recognized Stew & Kim Leonard in 2009 for their longtime commitment and support of water safety programs.
- In 2004, Stew and Kim Leonard were honored with the National Water Safety Education award from the National Water Safety Congress.
- Stew and Kim Leonard received the Heroes Award from the Fairfield County, Connecticut Red Cross chapter in 2005.
- USA Swimming honored the Stew Leonard III Children's Charities with the Safety Commendation Award at their annual Convention in 2000.
Write: 100 Westport Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06851, Call: 203.750.6121
Website: www.stewietheduck.com or www.stewleonards.com
Meghan Bell at 203.750.6107 or email@example.com
Visit Stewie the Duck at Facebook.com/StewLeonardIIIChildrensCharities or Twitter.com/StewieTheDuck