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Rose Bowl Aquatics Center Community Benefit Promotes Water Safety

Sobering film illustrates the painful impact of childhood drownings, emphasizes prevention

Published on Friday, May 26, 2023 | 5:39 am

Director/filmmaker Chezik Tsunoda and Rose Bowl Aquatics Center President and Executive Director Jimmy Francis. [Eddie Rivera/Pasadena Now]
Over the past 2 decades, the rate of unintentional drowning deaths among children aged 0–17 years has declined 38%, from 1.6 per 100,000 in 1999 to 1.0 in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unintentional drowning death rates among children were highest for those aged 1–4, with rates decreasing from 3.2 in 1999 to 2.4 in 2019.

Even with those decreasing numbers,  1,000 children will likely die as a result of drowning this year in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In fact, drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4 years old, and 88% of child drownings occur with at least one adult present.

And the vast majority of those drownings can be prevented, say a number of national anti-drowning groups, including Pasadena-based, and

Robert Kamins, Chair, Rose Bowl Aquatics Center Board of Directors [Eddie Rivera/Pasadena Now]
This was the theme at Thursday’s “Water Safety for All” benefit at Polytechnic School for the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center’s (Rose Bowl Aquatics Center) swimming and water safety programs.  

“At the core of our mission at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center,” said RBAC President and Executive Director Jimmy Francis, “is water safety and drowning prevention. We’re raising awareness for that cause tonight.”

Francis called the evening “a lovely opportunity to learn about the programs at the Aquatic Center and specifically, our third-grade water safety program in which we teach every third grader in Pasadena how to swim.” 

Rose Bowl Aquatics Center also has a scholarship program for young swimmers as well, he noted, and funds raised will also go toward that effort. 

At the center of the evening was Chezik Tsunoda’s film, “Drowning in Silence,” a somber reminder of the impact of losing a child to drowning as well as a frustrating examination of the ease in which an unattended child might drown in a home or public pool. 

Tsunoda’s heartbreaking film emerged from her own loss of her three-year-old son, Yori, who drowned in a backyard pool. 

“Yori had a huge personality,” his mother, Washington filmmaker Tsunoda, said. “As the third of four boys, he knew how to stand out. He was really silly, always made everyone laugh and loved playing with his brothers.”

?As detailed in the No More Under website, Yori was at a friend’s house in 2018, playing in the pool when he quietly slipped below the surface. When Yori was pulled from the water, it was clear that he was not breathing and did not have a pulse. After a few minutes of CPR, first responders arrived. They were able to revive his heart and transfer him to Seattle Children’s.

While Yori’s body eventually recovered, his brain never regained function due to a severe lack of oxygen, which is, unfortunately, the case with many drowning victims. Two weeks later, he was pronounced brain dead and died on Sept. 1, 2018.

“I had no idea when we walked into the hospital that we would not be walking out with him,” Tsunoda said. “As a parent, you assume it’s going to be okay, but it wasn’t. We were completely devastated.”

The tragedy led her to her film, website and mission of hammering home her message of childhood water safety. The film also recalls the local death of five-year-old Roxie, who drowned in a pool at Summerkids camp in Altadena in 2019. State documents reportedly showed the California Dept. of Social Services substantiated two allegations that Summerkids had operated without a required license.

Her parents Doug Forbes and Elena Matyas (who passed away from cancer in March of 2022), created the Meow Meow Foundation in Roxie’s honor. 

Since the death of Yori and Roxie, Tsunoda has crisscrossed the nation, seeking national legislation for water safety training and requirements.  

”It’s a state-by-state battle,” she said. 

In the meantime, the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center is actively promoting the importance of swimming lessons for children and offers the following tips for water safety:

  • Be a “Water Watcher.” Designate a water watcher to supervise activity in the water, without distractions.
  • Learn to Swim. Learning to swim is the #1 recommendation for water safety.
  • Suit up. Life jackets save lives. Don’t depend on floaty toys for safety.
  • Have barriers and sightlines. Install fences around home pools to prevent unsupervised accidents.
  • Get certified. Learn CPR and basic lifesaving skills.

More information on water safety is available at,, and

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