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Livonia mom turns pain into purpose, helping dozens of kids get swim lessons

“This year was really great because I set a goal of getting 15 kids into swim lessons, and we were able to well-surpass that goal and get 48 kids," Champlin explained.
Posted at 6:34 PM, Jun 18, 2024

LIVONIA, Mich. (WXYZ) — A 9-year-old boy remains in critical but stable condition after a near drowning in Warren on Monday, while the family of a 17-year-old boy from Hamtramck is grieving his death after drowning in Milford.

One happened at a pool, and the other happened at a lake. It's an all too common occurrence during warmer months.

Berkeley Champlin, a water safety advocate, works to prevent such tragedies.

The Livonia mom planted a willow tree, along with the ashes of her 3-year-old son Gordie in her backyard, after he drowned in 2020. The memorial sits where their above-ground pool used once sat.

“I went to work. I got a phone call from his dad, and come to find out that he had gotten out and he got into our pool and passed away," Champlin recalled.

She has made it her life’s work to prevent other families from experiencing the same heartache, and she's turning pain into prevention.

Champlin said, “Every year for the past three years, I’ve sponsored three kids... to get swim lessons. Just (paying) out of pocket.”

In 2024, she said she strived to make a greater impact.

“This year was really great because I set a goal of getting 15 kids into swim lessons, and we were able to well-surpass that goal and get, 48 kids is the official last count that are in swim lessons this summer," Champlin explained.

Because of Champlin's initiative, dozens of kids are getting swim lessons at places like Aqua-Tots and the Jack E. Kirksey Livonia Community Recreation Center.

That's where 7 News Detroit met Marilyn Remillard. She said she remains attentive as her grandson Michael and his friend Zane go for a swim. She said Michael did receive swim lessons starting as a baby.

“He’s used to the water. He knows what to do if he gets in over his head and all kids have to learn that," Remillard explained.

She said, "I have a friend whose 2-year-old son died in the backyard pool with adults around the pool and just not noticing that he was in the pool, and it happened very quickly.”

She applauds what Champlin is doing as she gives kids a fighting chance in all bodies of water.

Champlin said, “No matter what I do to help save a kid, I’m never gonna save my son. Ya know, no matter what I do and I know that and I feel that every time I go through this, but it keeps me busy. It keeps me motivated. It keeps me going, knowing that somebody else doesn’t need to be me and doesn’t need to be him.”

“I don’t want him to be forgotten. I want people to remember him. He was here, and he was amazing and so, doing the swim lessons is what helps me bring him to life every day when I can’t otherwise to do that," she said.

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