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 Children's Charities in memory of their son. Since this time, the Foundation has raised more than $2 million dollars to go towards water safety awareness and education, including lifeguard training and providing 10,000 free or low-cost swimming lessons to children every year.

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.

  • Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for children 1-14 years of age.
  • Most drownings happen in residential pools, and 9 out of 10 drowning deaths happen when a caregiver is supervising but not paying attention* and an average of ten people die from unintentional drowning in the United States every day. (*Source: NY State Department of Health (2007), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Safe Kids U.S.A.)
  • Drowning is preventable. Statistics show that children who take swimming lessons are 88% less likely to not drown than children who do not.
  • 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 foundation's volunteers have read the book to more than 110,000 children over the past 12 years. Almost 200,000 copies of the book have been sold and the book is now in its eighth printing.
  • The Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim mobile app for iTunes and Android 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. By early 2015, the app was downloaded more than 30,000 times globally, including by users in Australia, Canada, the UK, and China.
  • 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, Lifeguards Without Boarders, 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.
  • Stew Leonard Jr. accepted the 2016 Firefighters Leadership Award at the Nassau County Firefighters Museum’s Badge of Courage Gala on behalf of Stew Leonard III Children’s Charities for the foundation’s work with water safety and education.
  • The 2015 Community Lifesaver Award was presented to Families United to Prevent Drowning/Stew Leonard III Children's Charities by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. Families United to Prevent Drowning is a group of family foundations that are working together to prevent drowning and entrapment. Participating foundations include Stew Leonard III Children's Charities, Abbey's Hope (Minnesota), BECAUSE of B.R.A.Y.D.E.N. (South Carolina),BMF Project (Texas), CEF Foundation (Massachusetts), Colin's Hope (Texas), Drowning Prevention Foundation (San Francisco), Hannah's Foundation (Australia), Just Against Children Drowning (Florida), Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation (Nebraska), The C.L.A.Y. Foundation (Maryland), The Josh Project (Ohio), The LV Project (Texas), The ZAC Foundation (Fairfield, CT), and Mason's Gift (Florida).
  • In April 2014, Stew and Kim Leonard were recognized with the 2014 Community Impact Award by the American Red Cross - Connecticut & Rhode Island Region in acknowledgment of their longstanding commitment to the work of the American Red Cross and the lifesaving work of Stew Leonard III Children's Charities that has made water safety its priority.
  • 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.
  • 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
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Meghan Bell at 203.750.6107 or
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