Personal Tragedy Moves Washington Mother to Save Families from Childhood Drownings
Chezik Tsunoda found purpose through pain.
In 2018, the mom of four lost her 3-year-old son after a drowning accident in a friend’s backyard. Yori, the third youngest of four boys, was playing in the pool when he quietly disappeared below the water. The damage happened within minutes.
Following the devastation, Tsunoda set out on a quest for answers. The Washington mother was puzzled to find an insufficient amount of resources and information about the leading cause of accidental death of children between the ages of 1 and 4.
So Tsunoda took action.
This should not be the number one reason we lose our youngest kids.Chezik Tsunoda in Bellevue Club Magazine, 2020
In honor of Yori and the hundreds of children who pass away from drowning each year in the United States, she started an organization to advocate for children’s water safety. No More Under is dedicated to saving lives through education, legislation and increasing equitable access to swimming lessons; Black children between 5-19 are five and a half times more likely to drown in a swimming pool compared to white children of the same age.
Non-fatal drownings are also devastating, as some children may suffer brain damage following a drowning accident. After Yori was pulled from the water, first responders were able to revive his heart. His body was also recovered, but he was pronounced brain dead two weeks later.
Tsunoda has also in is his honor championed Yori’s Law, which promotes water-safety education and drowning prevention and establishes May 15 as Water Safety Day; Water Safety Awareness Month is recognized nationally in May.
Childhood Drowning Awareness Facts
- 1,000 children will likely die from drowning this year in the U.S.
- #1 cause of accidental death in children under 4
- 88% of childhood drownings occur with at least one adult present
- 68% of Black children have little to no swimming abilities
“Water is everywhere. It’s something we all take for granted, but drowning is the No. 1 reason children under age 4 die, and it’s completely preventable,” Tsunoda said in a 2020 article in Bellevue Club Magazine. “This should not be the number one reason we lose our youngest kids. This shouldn’t have to happen to any more of our babies.”
Tsunoda is also a dedicated filmmaker, who was moved by her personal tragedy to create a compelling documentary. Set to release Friday, “Drowning in Silence” confronts the silent epidemic of childhood drowning. Tsunoda traveled for the film, investigating why so little information exists about it and speaking to other families who shared her pain.
She is working everyday to make sure parents understand how prevalent drowning is and how quickly it can happen; 88% of childhood drownings occur with an adult present.
Through her own heartache, Tsunoda still depends on the memory of her son.
“In this moment, I feel Yori,” she said in Bellevue Club. “I feel guided by him; every day I get up and I walk and am guided through the space to do this work.”