2019_WaterSmartTots VFCC Charity of Choice

Our 2019 Charity of Choice

We take pride in who we select as our Charity of Choice each year.  After taking a look at our non-profit members, we felt that Water Smart Tots deserved to have the recognition and contributions this year.  We have a number of events where a portion of the money raised will go to the charity at our next annual dinner.  Water Smart Tots is an amazing local organization whose goal is to ensure parents are educated and young children have the survival swimming skills needed.  As a Chamber, we are excited to assist this group as much as we have previous charities and the charities we will select in the future.


Water Smart Tots, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to decreasing pediatric drowning.  We work towards our mission by providing water safety education and scholarships for survival swimming skills to children ages 12 months to 6 years who are financially underprivileged. We currently service the Greater Tampa Bay Area.


Kari Bahour became a water safety and drowning prevention advocate after her 16-month-old son experienced a non-fatal, near-drowning incident at a friend’s pool. Despite the proper pool barriers and 3 adults in the home, her infant son managed to briefly escape adult supervision ending up in a cold pool floating face down and unconscious. Thankfully her son survived without complications but Kari was well aware her son’s situation could have ended in tragedy.  In concern for her son’s safety, Kari researched several swim programs looking for one that would teach “competence” in the water before instilling “confidence”. After her son’s experience, she knew all too well how easy a curious toddler can briefly escape supervision and end up in a dangerous situation. After doing her own research and receiving a recommendation from her neighbor, Kari enrolled her 16-month-old son in a 6-week infant self-rescue swim program.   Amazed at the aquatic problem-solving skills her son learned, she passionately pursued becoming a survival swimming instructor to provide these essential lifesaving skills to more children.

Since 2000, she has had the privilege and honor of teaching aquatic self-rescue swimming skills to thousands of infants and young children. In 2008, Kari underwent additional extensive training to where she became qualified to train and mentor other instructors in the self-rescue methodology. Kari has trained instructors in Florida, Louisiana, Montana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

Drowning prevention and water safety became Kari’s passion. She fiercely pursued many other avenues where she can make a difference and bring awareness to the pediatric drowning epidemic.  She became an active member of the Hillsborough County Water Safety Team, the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, Safe Kids Greater Tampa Bay and the U.S. Swim School Association just to name a few.

Kari founded Water Smart Tots, Inc. after Mother’s Day weekend in 2014 when there were four pediatric drownings in a single weekend in the Tampa Bay Area. She wanted to give back to her community and believed that every child deserves the opportunity to learn survival swimming skills regardless of financial hardship.

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