TAMPA, Fla. - Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under the age of four in Florida, and it can happen in just a few seconds.
After their 1-year-old named Aubrey drowned in the family pool in 2020, local couple Kristen and Matt Strojnowski are now helping other kids get self-rescue swim lessons.
"Aubrey was the most amazing little girl," said Kristen Strojnowski.
"She used to run around the house just wanting to give hugs and kisses, and she loved to eat. Her favorite thing in the world was eating," Matt Strojnowski said with a smile.
Kristen and Matt’s baby was 16-months old when the pandemic hit. One day in March 2020, they realized Aubrey was missing.
"I thought she was with Kristen, and Kristen thought she was with me, and we went looking for her, and she got out through the sliding glass door and was able to get into the pool," said Matt.
Their daughter was one of the 69 children who drowned that year. So far in 2022, state data shows 61 kids have died from drowning, found in the family pool, a pond or even the bathtub.
"She's [Aubrey] always on our mind, and it's not something you get over. You just learn to live with it," Matt said. "And what makes the most sense for us to help us heal is to know that we can help somebody else."
The couple now works with the Water Smart Tots Foundation. The non-profit provides scholarships for children under the age of five to get self-rescue swim lessons.
"If your child ever makes their way outside into a pool, it gives them a chance to survive," Kristen said. "And Aubrey didn't have that chance."
It is another layer of protection parents should use along with supervision, pool fences and alarms. The Tampa couple is passionate about spreading this knowledge across the region.
"We don't want any other family to have to experience what we've had to go through," said Matt.
The Strojnowski’s along with the Water Smart Tots Foundation are holding a fundraiser on October 2 called Walk for Aubrey. The dollars raised will give other children those critical swim lessons, and it is a way for the now family of five to recognize their happy little baby lost too soon.
"We want to honor her, we want to celebrate her life," Kristen said.
The Walk for Aubrey and Family Festival’ is being held at Perry Harvey, Sr. Park in downtown Tampa. It runs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and costs $30 to register.