Brice Romero drowned after falling into a swimming pool three years ago, two weeks after graduating from high school. Romero did not know how to swim. Friends and family, including Romero’s mother, Linda Plowden, and sister, Chasity Romero, as well as family friend Donna Libersat, have since set out to make sure that does not happen to as many families as possible.
The Brice Romero Memorial Fund has helped 30 children learn to swim during the past two summers. That included more than a dozen in last week’s program, conducted by long-time instructors, Angela Gallet and Danielle Fontenot, who each have 25 years of experience. Plowden said she is beyond pleased that the program is in its second year.
“I’m thankful that we were able to do 15 kids this year,” Plowden said.
One of those is 16-year-old Jeremiah Mitchell, who will be a junior at Erath High School.
“I didn’t know how to swim,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell’s 14-year-old brother Elijah also took part in last week’s lesson. Jeremiah Mitchell admitted that he went into the program largely hesitant.
“I was a little embarrassed,” Jeremiah Mitchell said. “I was embarrassed because of my age.”
That quickly changed.
“I got over it,” Mitchell said.
He is happy he did.
“I learned a lot,” Mitchell said with a wide smile on his face.
Makayla Vice, 4, is one of the youngest who went through last week’s program. She, too, learned, including how to chipmunk. What is that, one may ask?
“I put my face under the water and make my cheeks real big while I hold my breath,” the young Vice said. “It has been real fun and I learned a lot.”
Karma Rose Broussard, 3, is the youngest who learned to swim. Her mother, Nicole Steen, said she is pleased with what the program offered her daughter.
“It went great,” Steen said. “She will jump right in and put her face under the water. She is not scared. They teach them a lot of patience and not to panic. That is all of the kids. They learned how to not be afraid. They all learned to be confident.
“They build that confidence and they feel good about themselves.”
“That is the most important thing I learned,” Mitchell said. “Confidence is very important.”
Plowden said she can see that with her own grandchildren, Grant, Natalie and Demitri Thibeaux, who took part in the program last year.
“They just jump in and they are like fish,” Plowden said.
Plowden added that none of it would be possible without support.
“I would like to thank the community,” Plowden said. “I appreciate all those who donated. I just ask that everyone keep us in mind as we do different fundraisers throughout the year.”
For Mitchell, everything that goes into producing the program is priceless.
“It’s so important,” Mitchell said. “It is important because it can save someone’s life one day.”
As for worrying about being too old, Mitchell said that is a feeling that should absolutely be put aside.
“I would tell anyone in my situation not to worry about being embarrassed because you don’t know how to swim at an older age,” Mitchell said. “I would tell them to just do it.
“The program is awesome.”
Steen echoed that sentiment.
“It is awesome,” the mother said. “It took a tragedy and is making something good come from it.”