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Roxie’s Wish Comes True Through a Week Long Aquatic Safety Event

Doug Forbes and Elena Matyas produce a weeklong virtual event to promote pool safety in memory of their 6-year-old daughter

Published on Thursday, May 13, 2021 | 3:38 pm
 
Six-year-old Roxie Forbes, a non-swimmer, drowned at the Altadena-based Summerkids Camp on June 28, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Elena Matyas and Doug Forbes)

After the June 28, 2019 drowning of 6-year-old Roxie Forbes in a summer camp swimming pool in Altadena, parents Elena Matyas and Doug Forbes devoted their lives to ensuring other children will not suffer the same fate.

The most recent event in their ongoing public education campaign is a weeklong virtual event called “Roxie’s Wish,” featuring presentations by such local luminaries as Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo, Former Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Assemblymember Chris Holden, Senator Anthony Portantino, and a host of musical artists and Olympic athletes, including multiple Gold Medal swimmers Janet Evans and Pasadena resident John Naber.

“It’s almost like a television production where we address what we feel to be the most important issues related to childhood drowning,” Forbes recently told Pasadena Now. “Our seventh Olympic participant, Gary Hall Jr., has won 10 Olympic medals in his illustrious career.”

Following is a list of events on each day of “Roxie’s Wish”:

SATURDAY
MAY 15
Saturday’s segment kicks-off with hosts Doug and Elena from the Pasadena Boys & Girls Club. Presentations will be made by Holden, Portantino and Olympians Lia Neal, Maritza McClendon and Janelle Atkinson. In celebration of International Water Safety Day, discussions will be held by Nic Askew, swimming coach at Howard University on “Including Diversity in Aquatics,” as well as on how and why drowning affects Latinx, Black, Asian and socioeconomically disadvantaged youth at higher rates and how communities can rally around prevention and swimming opportunities to live better lives. Also included will be a moving tribute to Roxie from harpist and Roxie’s teacher, Elva De Jarnett, and Doug and Elena are awaiting word from a very special guest. Included will be videos from around the nation from the Michael Phelps Foundation, BlackKidsSwim, Team Kareem, No More Under, The Root, and more. There will also be a special recognition of select families who have suffered a childhood drowning.

SUNDAY
MAY 16
Broadcast from the world-renowned Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, speakers include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and four-time Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelburg. There will be a celebration of aquatics programming and adaptive swimming for children with special needs with limited resources, and a discussion on swim safety guidance ahead of the summer season. A musical guest will be announced shortly. Groups from around the country submitting videos include the Jasper Ray Foundation, Swim Angelfish, SwimRight Academy, Goldfish Swim School, Abbey’s Hope, and Lil’ Guppies. There will also be a special recognition of select families who have suffered a childhood drowning.

MONDAY
MAY 17
Broadcast from Doug and Elena’s Pasadena Headquarters, viewers will hear from Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Hilda Solis, health and safety officials and seven-time NCAA champ and Olympic gold medalist Darian Townsend. First responders, medical personnel and others in their courageous fight against drowning will be honored. Discussion will range from CPR and “Reach and Throw Don’t Go” to Life Jackets, Pool Fences and Water Watchers. Musical guest, America’s favorite family band, the Rock N’ Roll Hi-Fives, will play a song recorded for this event. Creators of videos from around the country include Consumer Products Safety Commission Pool Safety, the Miss Tristan Foundation, the American Academy of Pediatrics, ProTrainings, Parkview Health, City of Pasadena EMT and Aquatics, Safe Kids California, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Colin’s Hope and Abbey’s Hope. There will be a special recognition of select families who have suffered a childhood drowning.

TUESDAY
MAY 18
Broadcast from Doug and Elena’s Pasadena HQ, speakers include former Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek. Viewers will also hear from National Drowning Prevention Alliance Executive Director Adam Katchmarchi, Stop Drowning Now Executive Director Sara Biskie, and four-time Olympic gold medalist John Naber, a resident of Pasadena. They will also be honoring the work of government organizations such as the Consumer Products Safety Commission, and NGOs including Safe Kids Worldwide, the American Academy of Pediatrics and family foundations. Discussion will focus on the reality of preventable childhood drowning today and partnerships fighting to end the plight tomorrow. Musical guests to be announced shortly. Videos from around the nation include the Swim With Mike Foundation, Lythgoe Family Panto, Under the Nile, the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, The Locket Sisters, The Family Room, the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, and Josh the Otter. There will be a special recognition of select families who have suffered a childhood drowning.

WEDNESDAY
MAY 19
Broadcast from Lake Cachuma and the glorious Gaviota Beach on the Pacific Ocean, included are Congresswoman Judy Chu and four-time Olympic gold medalist Janet Evans. The hosts will also be honoring heroes who literally saved the lives of others imperiled by non-fatal drowning. Discussion will focus on must-know updated information about lifeguarding and safety at pools, oceans, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water. Musical guest to be announced shortly. Videos from around the nation include Dr. Justin Sempsrott of Lifeguards Without Borders and StarGuard ELITE, Summer Harrison of SwimOutlet (also a beach lifeguard), president of the US Lifesaving Association Gus Avila, the LV Project, California State Parks Lifeguards, Dr. Chris Thurber, and Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Brian McDonald. There will be a special recognition of select families who have suffered a childhood drowning.

THURSDAY
MAY 20
Broadcast from Pasadena City Hall, guests include Mayor Victor Gordo and 10-time Olympic medalist Gary Hall, Jr. Hosts will be honoring those who passed critical local, state and federal legislation that saved lives, including Kathy Baker of the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Discussion will focus on how drowning prevention legislation and local advocacy can be a game-changer, plus updates on Doug and Elena’s pending legislation that affects more than 6 million students. Plus, there will be more on the National Water Safety Action Plan. Musical guests will be announced shortly, just as videos from around the nation will also soon be announced. Like other episodes, there will be a special recognition of select families who have suffered a childhood drowning.

FRIDAY
MAY 21
The final episode will be broadcast from Doug and Elena’s Pasadena HQ, with speeches by Doug and Elena in honor of their beloved daughter, Roxie Mirabelle Forbes. Viewers will aso hear from five-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin. Expect appearances by SwimBrayv MerModels and SuperMeow
Discussion will focus on preparing for the summer season and the final event celebrating children and families. Musical guests will be announced shortly, and there will be more videos from around the nation.

Forbes and Matyas have done all this through the Meow Meow Foundation, a nonprofit named for their child’s beloved toy cat and formed in the wake of Roxie’s tragic death “to develop water safety and camp safety programs that protect young lives, and eliminate preventable childhood drowning deaths and catastrophic injuries at camps,” according to the organization’s website.

To that end, the couple has lobbied local lawmakers to sponsor legislation with Assemblyman Chris Holden, who wrote a bill that would create updated pool and open water safety policies and programming that can be readily adopted by California schools.

They’ve also helped sponsor still pending legislation with state Sen. Anthony Portantino, which seeks to address what Portantino acknowledges is “a deficiency in camp licensing, inspection, and oversight.’’

Along with that, they continue to make public appearances, advocating for greater protective measures at area pools to ensure the safety of young swimmers.

“You know,” said Forbes, “we appear at press conferences, we’ll be at the fourth upcoming Rose Bowl Aquatics Center press briefing on water safety. We are available to educate folks anywhere and everywhere in the state of California and even beyond about the importance of drowning prevention and camp safety. And finally, through our website and other initiatives, we avail resources to folks. We’re here to receive calls from people who have concerns about lifeguarding at certain facilities or camp safety practice facilities here in California or nationwide. So yeah, we’re up to a lot.”

To send a video, visit https://www.meowmeowfoundation.org/roxies-wish-drowning-prevention-week-for-children.

More information about the Meow Meow Foundation is available on the organization’s website, meowmeowfoundation.org.

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