Grieving mother transforms tragedy into personal mission

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Aaron “Buzz” Davies

GREENVILLE — A grieving mother who lost her beloved toddler to drowning 12 years ago has spent the intervening years transforming a tragedy into a personal mission to bring about something good.

On July 29, the annual blood drive honoring the memory of Aaron “Buzz” Davies was held at the Greenville American Legion on Maple Avenue.

Yvonne Davies’ 2-½-year-old son Aaron died July 30, 2010, when he drowned in his babysitter’s swimming pool.

It happened silently and all too quickly.

“Aaron loved the water,” Davies said. “He went swimming as much as he could, but I did use a flotation device for him, so he wasn’t aware that without that, he wouldn’t be able to swim.”

Aaron’s one-piece swimsuit featured a built-in flotation device, so the toddler was not aware that he couldn’t swim without it. He had been playing in the babysitter’s bounce house with the younger kids but snuck into the above-ground swimming pool after everyone else had gotten out of it.

No one realized he was in the water until it was too late.

“They didn’t realize that he had gotten into the pool – he got in unnoticed,” Davies said. “He loved the water, so he saw it as an opportunity.”

Two years after Aaron’s death, his mother began holding an annual blood drive, always around the July 30th anniversary of his death, as a way of honoring his memory and making something good come out of an unspeakable tragedy.

Started in 2012, and missing one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual “Aaron’s Blood Drive” has collected 482 units of blood so far. This year’s blood drive saw a steady stream of people lining up to donate as well.

In addition to the annual blood drive, Davies has become an advocate for drowning prevention to spread the word to other parents.

“I’m involved in drowning prevention now,” Davies said. “I’ve met a lot of people who have lost their children to drowning and it happens so quickly. People think if a child enters the water they will hear them, but I know people who were in the water but their back was turned when the children jumped or fell into the water behind them and they never heard a sound. There’s no splashing, there’s no yelling, it’s very silent. A toddler can drown in 30 seconds. It doesn’t take several minutes. People need to be aware.”

Davies has another message for parents — you can teach even the youngest of toddlers about water safety.

“You can teach children how to self-rescue,” she said. “The most important thing is if a child falls into the water, they need to be able to get to the surface and flip onto their back so they are able to breathe. That can even be taught to infants as young as 8 or 9 months. It’s an important skill.”

Davies said she was unaware at the time of Aaron’s death that drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4.

“I had no idea,” she said. “I knew that they happened, but I didn’t think it was that common. Self-rescue is important — you teach children how to swim and have fun in the water using the flotation device, but they don’t always realize that if they don’t have it on, they won’t be able to stay afloat and breathe.”

She also urged parents to have their pool fenced in so children can’t get into the water without adult supervision, and to have multiple layers of supervision with adults always keeping a sharp eye on children while they are in the water.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children ages 1-4 had the highest rates of unintentional drowning deaths over the past two decades, and the rate of children’ s drowning deaths were highest in rural counties compared with urban counties between 1999 to 2019.

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