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FOR RELEASE: May 23, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Brittany Project Expands to Include Corps Lakes

A successful program to loan life jackets to families who visit state lakes has been expanded to include 19 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes around Oklahoma.

For the third summer, visitors to Oklahoma lakes who forget to bring life jackets for their children can borrow them free of charge, thanks to a collaborative program involving state and federal agencies and water safety advocates.

In an effort to prevent drownings, the second-leading cause of fatal unintentional injuries to Oklahoma children, the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition is continuing the "Brittany Project," its life jacket loaner program, at 16 state lake parks and 19 Corps parks.

In 1999, SAFE KIDS, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, piloted the program at Lake Thunderbird and its success led the coalition to expand the program across the state the following year.

Named for 4-year-old Brittany Mobley, who drowned Memorial Day weekend six years ago and wasn't wearing a life jacket, the program will offer free use of children's life jackets at 16 different parks at the following Oklahoma Department of Tourism lakes: Eufaula, Fort Gibson, Green Leaf, Keystone, Murray, Quartz Mountain, Tenkiller, Texoma, and Thunderbird. Life jackets are usually available on freestanding kiosks located on the beaches.

New this year, loaner jackets will be available at 19 parks owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Birch, Canton, Copan, Eufaula, Ft. Gibson, Ft. Supply, Heyburn, Hugo, Kaw, Keystone, Oologah, Pine Creek, R.S. Kerr, Sardis, Skiatook, Tenkiller, Texoma, Waurika, and Webbers Falls. Life jackets at these lakes will be available at the gatehouses.

In 2000, 25 Oklahoma children age 15 and under drowned -- mostly in lakes. "A typical drowning scenario is when a family goes to the lake without life jackets for the children, and the adults have a brief lapse in supervision. That very brief lapse can result in a child's death or irreversible brain damage," said Martha Collar, coalition coordinator. She added that not a single child has drowned in the past two summers at lakes that participated in the Brittany Project.

In addition to SAFE KIDS, sponsors include Family & Friends of Dona and Greg Williams, Phillips Petroleum and the Oklahoma Department of Tourism. Dona is the mother of Brittany. She started raising funds and giving out life jackets at Lake Thunderbird on the one-year anniversary of her daughter's death.

Now, instead of giving out life jackets for families to keep, the Brittany Project offers loaner jackets in several sizes for children to use and return when they are finished swimming. "Most people realize that if the jackets aren't returned, a child who comes after them may not be protected," said Collar.

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