By Esther Robards-Forbes
Last week, Jaime Slaughter did what few, if any, people have done: He swam the length of Lake Austin.
The 21-mile trip from Mansfield Dam to Tom Miller Dam was all to raise awareness for drowning prevention.
Colin’s Hope was founded four years ago, following the death drowning death of 4-year-old Colin Holst, with the aim of raising awareness of water safety and drowning prevention, especially for children.
“This is just one more reminder that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for all children, especially for children under the age of 5,” said Jeff Holst, Colin’s father. “Drowning can happen to anyone. It only takes a few moments, and it’s often silent.”
Slaughter is a board member of Colin’s Hope and was at the swimming pool the day Colin drowned. In the past four years, he’s been participating in swims for Colin’s Hope, distances of 4 or 8 miles. Then someone suggested swimming all of Lake Austin, the distance equivalent of swimming the English Channel.
Slaughter said yes first and worried about how he was going to swim that far later. The farthest he had ever swum before was 8 miles.
“I was going to get there unless they forcefully pulled me in the water,” he said following his successful swim June 13. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I tried to surround myself with friends and family and water guardians. It was all about doing something to raise awareness for Colin’s Hope and its mission.”
Slaughter set out from Mansfield Dam at 2:45 a.m. With no water released from the dam that day, there was no current to help Slaughter along. Slaughter was surrounded by kayaks, stand-up paddle boarders and boats to ensure he was safe during the trip.
The swim took less than 12 hours, and Slaughter kept a steady pace. As far as anyone with Colin’s Hope has been able to determine, Slaughter may be the first person to swim the length of the lake solo and without stopping. He did occasionally stop to eat or drink, but would only tread water rather than holding on to a boat or getting out of the water.
Through the difficult swim, Slaughter thought a lot about Colin.
“[Colin’s death]) had a profound effect on me,” said Slaughter, an assistant district attorney and volunteer paramedic. “You work in the EMS arena, and you see a lot of things that are really horrible. That one just really got me. It had a profound impact.”
Holst and the folks at Colin’s Hope are hoping that the swim raises awareness, especially as more people head to area lakes and pools as the weather heats up.
“We just want to arm the public so they can have that information when they go around water, pools, lakes and rivers and have fun family time, but get home safely,” said Holst, who joined Slaughter in a kayak for the last four miles of his swim. “For us, drowning prevention is all about awareness and then its layers of security. “
Colin’s Hope recommends constant visual supervision by adults when children are in the water, life jackets for children that are not strong swimmers, barriers around home pools and CPR classes for adults.
“As Colin would say,’It’s the best day ever,’ and we’re looking forward to making a difference,” Holst said.
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