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Emory & Henry Men’s & Women’s Swimming Teams Partner With Levi’s Legacy

E&H Men's & Women's Swimming teams with the Hughes family.
-photo courtesy of Kylie Lang

EMORY, Va. - Levi Hughes was three years old when he drowned on June 10, 2018. While on vacation with his family, he slipped out of a room filled with adults, down a flight of stairs, and fell into the pool. His mom split a brownie with him and had not finished the other bite of the brownie when she jumped into the pool to grab her son. Drowning only takes seconds.

His family was heartbroken to learn that drowning is the number one cause of death for children under age five. Despite the unimaginable pain, Jonathan and Nicole Hughes chose to advocate for water safety and to live a purposeful life for their daughters (Lily and Reese), whom Levi adored.

From this desire, the Hughes family started "Water Guardians: Levi's Legacy." The organization helps distribute water guardian tags at the cost to organizations and individuals. Each tag is the size of a credit card and comes with a lanyard. The tag provides a tangible reminder of who is supervising.

Emory & Henry Head Men's & Women's Swimming Coach Cody Skinner heard the story and the mission of Levi's Legacy and started to think about ways that his men's and women's team could support the Hughes family.

"The team's theme of the season is leaving a legacy and I immediately knew that this organization is something I wanted my team to be a part of," said Skinner. "In fact, we have decided to dedicate our entire season to Levi."

To help raise awareness for Levi's Legacy, Emory & Henry College will host an intercollegiate swim meet on Saturday, November 3 at 1:00 p.m. The competition will be celebrated as "Levi's Legacy Day." There will be a small ceremony to honor Levi and the Hughes family. The E&H swimming teams will wear special swim caps adorned with Levi's Legacy logo. The team will also be giving away t-shirts and taking donations for Levi's Legacy.

In addition, Emory & Henry will work with Levi's Legacy to educate the community on swimming safety while offering basic swimming instruction classes throughout the winter and spring.

"I am humbled and grateful to be able to partner with Emory & Henry's swimming teams," said Nicole Hughes. "Not only am I touched by this support from our community, but I know this platform will be an effective way to spread awareness about drowning prevention. Swimming lessons are a vital part of water safety, and I look forward to making a difference together."

"We would love to see the pool packed for Levi's Legacy Day as we honor this great organization and this inspiring family," added Skinner.



Drowning is the number one cause of death from unintentional injuries is in children ages 1-4 and number two in ages 1-14 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions.

Nearly 70% of deaths of children under five happen when they were not expected to be swimming (Source Consumer Product Safety Commission).

A high percentage (in many studies, the majority) of drowning accidents happen when children are NOT expected to be in the water, yet they slip away for mere minutes and drown. It is IMPERATIVE that caretakers continue to designate a "Water Guardian" until all children are inside and doors are dead-bolted.

Layers of Protection
•    Designate a "water guardian"
•    Four-sided fences around pools
•    Door and pool alarms
•    Swimming lessons
•    Coast Guard approved life jackets on the open water
•    Do not store toys in pools
•    Educate to eliminate drowning
•    Do not rely on floatation devices during swim time

WHY do "Water Guardian" tags matter?
There are numerous ways to prevent drowning, but by far the most effective is constant supervision of children when around water, EVEN when not swimming. Gates, alarms, and swimming lessons can provide some safeguarding against drowning, but constant supervision is vital, including when children are not swimming but have access to water (pool, lake, ocean, pond, etc…). When it comes to water safety, there is NO alternative to supervision

How do "Water Guardian" tags work?
It is easy to ask a spouse or other caretaker, "Hey, can you watch the kids for a minute?" But, it is not enough. Parents, especially of small children, are easily distracted, so a TANGIBLE reminder, an effective "tagging" of who is supervising is simple but powerful.

The most important way to prevent drowning is to have a designated adult watching the children when swimming or when there is access water. The idea of "Water Guardians: Levi's Legacy" is to provide a physical reminder of who is designated as the person supervising the children.

When do you need a "Water Guardian?"
1.    When swimming with small children
2.    When vacationing at a beach house or lake house (typically, there is more activity and excitement happening / an unfamiliar location / more people and the assumption that someone else is watching).
3.    At a pool party (again - more chaos, more people).
4.    With a very high parentage of drowning incidents happening when children are not expected to be in the water, it is IMPERATIVE that caretakers continue to designate a "Water Guardian" until all children are inside and doors are dead-bolted.