Friday, April 23, 2021

Marco Fire Rescue Partners With Children’s Coalition



By Steve “Stef” Stefanides

Water is a major component of what makes Marco Island so special. With over 100 miles of canals, thousands of swimming pools and approximately five miles of beach, residents and visitors flock to the water on a regular basis to enjoy a number of recreational activities that include swimming, boating and a number of water sports and activities at the beach.

When personnel with the Marco Fire Department learned of the program being initiated with the Safe and Healthy Children’s Coalition to keep children safe around the water they jumped at the opportunity to join with the Coalition.

The Coalition provides free loaner lifejackets for children throughout Collier County. The group, which is sponsored by the Naples Community Hospital and others, has placed the lifesaving jackets throughout Collier County beaches.

“It only made sense that a program such as this is vitally important to our efforts to help prevent drowning here on our island,” said Firefighter/Paramedic Chris Bowden, who is the fire rescue department’s educational coordinator.

Recently, the Coalition joined with numerous sponsors to deploy two additional racks of lifejackets on the public beach access points at the boardwalks located at the Madeira Condominiums and the Marriott Crystal Shores Vacation Club. A



third rack was also dedicated that day at the popular Marco Island Residents’ Beach recreation area at the intersection of San Marco Road and Collier Boulevard.

Two additional racks can be found at the County and MICA South Beach Access Boardwalk and at the Collier County Tigertail Beach area.

The Marco branch of the Coast Guard Auxiliary inspects the jackets and racks every two weeks to insure they are properly stocked and in good condition, as part of the collaborative effort of the Coalition.

Neal Horrell, a general contractor out of Naples, built the stands with materials donated by Lowe’s Building Supplies and through donations the lifejackets are provided for the program. Chris Bowden transported the disassembled racks to the fire station and they were reassembled and placed in service last week after the dedication at the MICA Residents’ Beach.

“We hope that even if individuals don’t utilize the jackets the day they pass by the racks that it will remind them of the need for safety around their pools at home for their children and grandkids as they come to visit,” said Bowden.

There are now 15 of the racks provided at beaches in Collier County with 23 partners participating in the program.

For more information on this program or others sponsored by the Coalition, visit

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