On each episode of Child Safety Resource, we interview a person who is striving to keep children safe. Often these folks are motivated by a devastating personal event that now drives their mission. Sadly, today’s interview with Stephanie Marie Robertson, the founder of Nathan’s Water Wings, also includes a tragic event.

Getting to Know Stephanie Marie Robertson

Stephanie Marie Robertson is a mother on a mission. Nathan’s Water Wings was created as a response to losing her son Nathan to a tragic drowning incident. As you’ll hear during our interview, she shares this particularly harrowing tale with us.

To her eternal credit, Stephanie now strives to help prevent other parents from suffering this same fate. At its core, Stephanie’s organization aims to prevent and stop childhood drowning. After all, drowning is preventable. As we’ve discussed throughout the Life Saver Pool Fence blog, swimming safety requires diligence, proper safety precautions and education.

Nathan’s Water Wings provides help in several ways. For one, it offers scholarships for Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) swimming lessons. Additionally, it helps people to afford the cost of pool safety measures. These include pool fencing and pool alarms, as well as window and door alarms. Finally, they provide assistance and a support community to families that have lost a child due to drowning.

In today’s episode, Stephanie spoke with Life Saver Pool Fence‘s president, Eric Lupton, about her experience and her ongoing mission.

You can watch their conversation right here:

We’d like to extend our gratitude to Stephanie Marie Robertson for sharing her story and her mission. If you’d like to learn more about Nathan’s Water Wings, visit its official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Nathanswaterwings/

For more interviews like this one, please follow our official Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Additionally, please take a moment to check out our official YouTube channel. The entire collection of Child Safety Source video interviews are archived there.

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Below is a direct transcript of the Child Safety Resource interview with Stephanie Marie Robertson from July 10th, 2018:

Eric: And that’s it, we are live on the internet. How’s it going?

Stephanie: Good, how are you?

Eric: I’m fantastic. Awesome, so we’re here with Stephanie Marie Robertson, the famous, the one, the only… it’s terrible because there’s gonna be no one to watch our video because you’re here, you know. You have to somehow figure out how to comment, right.

Stephanie: Well, I try to figure out how I could possibly share it into my group, but my tablet don’t want to work right so unfortunately I can’t do that.

Eric: Gotcha. Oh, by the way, the poop {inaudible} thing was in your Bio

Stephanie: Sorry.

Eric: I took it and copied it and it sounded like, {inaudible} thought that was funny.

Stephanie: Sorry.

Eric: It is what it is, no big deal; but I think you can share it after it goes live by the way

Stephanie: I definitely will.

Eric: So, if you want to share it now, you totally could. Yep, and I thought you said you spelted your last name wrong, that’s hilarious. That wasn’t me, I would never have done that to you.

Stephanie: I missed the B, sorry.

Eric: The B is not that big a deal, you know, is just a B, you know. B’s are {inaudible} I’ve never been a fan of Bs anyways.

Stephanie: {Inaudible}

Eric: So…

Stephanie: (shh)

Eric: (laugh)

Stephanie: Sorry

Eric: You said his name is Chase, right?

Stephanie: Yes.

Eric: Chase, Chase is 5?

Stephanie: Chase is 5.

Eric: Gotcha

Stephanie: Say hi?

Chase: Hi

Eric: Hey Chase. So, does Chase do like a summer school thing you said {inaudible]

Stephanie: Yes, uhm, we’re supposed to be outside at like 8:20, and we are outside, he wants to go outside like 8… quarter after 8:00. So, we’re out well before our time and we were outside for 45 minutes and then the bus still didn’t show up so I don’t know what’s happening. When I’m done my live I’ll take them to school I guess.

Eric: That’s funny; and the school run all year around or… what the deal with it?

Stephanie: It’s normal school; they go from September 6 right after our Labor Day, to… this year I think they went on June 20th because of snow days here in Jersey. So…. but then for children that have special needs and they’re developmentally delayed, they have a what’s called a Summer Bridge Program which gives them 31/2 weeks of summer schools so that they don’t fall behind, and they can keep up to where they are.

Eric: That’s pretty cool, nice. You know, living in Florida, a snow day is something I have not ever experienced; it’s a foreign concept, you know.

Stephanie: We have had {Inaudible] summer…excuse me, winner. I think we had a couple little snow days but by 9, 10 o’clock it was all melted away and yet he’s still home and I’m like oh, what’s the point. I remember going to school with a foot of snow on the ground.

Eric: Sure.

Stephanie: And today it’s all different.

Eric: Right, of course. And, you had to walk both ways uphill you know, with {inaudible} right.

Stephanie: Yeah, of course.

Eric: Yeah, we have hurricane days, but no snow days. We definitely had to take a few days…

Stephanie: I’ll take the snow, you can keep the hurricane.

Eric: I will take the hurricane any day, its easy. Just one or two days….

Stephanie: I think the last hurricane we had was Sandy.

Eric: Yeah, that was a good time.

Stephanie: That was a real good time here for Atlantic City and a lot of those shore points

Eric: Yeah, absolutely. So, um your shirt says, “Nathan’s Water Rings”. Can you tell us a little bit about Nathan Water Rings and why you got started?

Stephanie: Nathan’s Water Wings we created in honor of my son Nathan, he passed away on November 6, 2016. I laid him down for a nap with his brother Chase at like 1:30, and that whole day I just had something that was wrong; I knew something was wrong and I told my husband I’m gonna go lay down. And, I went upstairs, and I lay down and just as I started falling asleep, I just started crying, like I knew something was seriously wrong and I could not pin point what was wrong. At about 5 o clock, my husband came and woke me up and I went downstairs to let the boys out for dinner, and I didn’t see Nathan in the bedroom and Nathan was autistic, he did have his disabilities. Um, he liked to sleep on the floor, and I looked underneath this bed because he liked to hide underneath of his bed and sleep.

So, I looked under his bed and I didn’t see him and then I looked over to Chase’s bed and he wasn’t under Chase’s bed. And the room is only like a 10 by 10 room, maybe 12 by 12. So, it’s not like it’s a huge room where he has many hiding spots, but when I look back to Nathan’s bed and I was standing up, I noticed that his bedroom window was open. And, I screams at the top of my lungs, I said, “Nathan’s outside, Nathan’s gone, Nathan’s dead, he’s in the pool”. I ran through my house, out my back door, I ran to the pool and I kind of was about a foot from the side, and I stood up like my tippy-toes and I looked over because we have one of those above-ground 18 feet aluminum poles; and I didn’t see him. So, I was like, “all right, thank you Jesus, he’s not in the pool”. So, I walked over to where our Kuby hole was, where my kid would have jumped out and he wasn’t in there. Well, I just my heart sunk, and I turned around and that’s when I noticed the pool gate was open to the deck of the pool. And, I screamed I said, “Nathan’s in the bottom, Nathan’s in the bottom”. And, I ran to the pool, went up on the deck and that’s when I noticed Nathan was like facedown flat at the bottom of the pool. I jumped in and I pulled my son out, and I screamed, “daddy, Nathan’s dead,” and uh, daddy got home and I ran through back to the yard into the house, grabbed the cell, phone called 9-1-1 and you know told that my son’s dead, he’s he drowns. And, um, we started CPR and our son and unfortunately, Nathan didn’t make it.

Nathan was pronounced dead at the scene but because of that story and what we went through, we want to give the scholarships and give the ISR, you know, pool fencing from your company, whether its door alarms, you know. If a child is …had a near drowning experience, we want to help that family in any way we can. You know, whether it’s just being that communication for them or if it’s, you know, they lost a child and you know, they need help with funerals, you know. I was blessed that I didn’t have to pay the cost of my son’s funeral.  The funeral home voided all of my son’s funeral expense.

Eric: Wow.

Stephanie: So, I mean I was very blessed in that, and to this day, the funeral home is standing beside me that if I ever needed them for any situation, they would be there for me. So, with that being said, that is why I created Nathan Water Wings, and why Nathan’s Water Wings is here to do what they need to do.

Eric: Why did you think it was the pool immediately?

Stephanie: Because, my son had a love of water.

Eric: Yeah

Stephanie: I thought that we pounded into his head enough in the last 2 years that we had the pool that he couldn’t go into the pool, you know. He would go near the pool and I say, you know, “Well, are you supposed to go there?” “No”. “Well, what can happen if you go up there without mommy or daddy?” “I could go to heaven”, you know, that was how we started teaching our child, you know. You’re not gonna see mommy and daddy no more and he wouldn’t go there. So… and, for the last 8 – 10 months prior to it, all summer long, he wanted to go swimming, but he was like, “mommy come swimming with me, or daddy come swimming with me”. So, it’s not like he ever tried to do it without us, it’s just I knew in my heart with the way my son loves the water, that’s how and where my son had to be.

Eric: And I know kids you know, especially that age, develop new skills all the time. Had he been able to open the window before?

Stephanie: No, he is actually had never opened the window. Right before he passed away Sunday on the 6th, so, it was Friday the 4th, we took the air conditioner out of his window, cuz we still had some more months in September and October. And when I took the air conditioner out of his window, he looked down the window he says, “Oh my gosh mom, that’s high.” It’s an 8-foot drop from my window to the ground, and he and I said yeah, we never go out the window do we? He says, “No way, I get hurt.” So, 2 days prior to that, he sat there said I’d never do this, and then 2 days later, he does it.

Eric: How old was he?

Stephanie: He was 4 and a half.

Eric: 4 and a half, and it was only… you said 21 months ago or… if, that’s a longer….

Stephanie: 20 months ago.

Eric: 20 months?

Stephanie: November 6th, 2016.

Eric: And, how long ago did you start Nathan’s Water Wings?

Stephanie: It was about 6 months after, and I talked to Carey from {inaudible} Jake and you know, it’s what she does and why she created it and stuff like that, you know. I got my information before I did it, and I sat down and I talked with my husband and I said, you know, this is something I would love to do in Nathan’s honor, you know. There’s not many opportunities you have to still honor your child after they’re gone. What other better way than to be able to give scholarships and let Nathan story and legacy live on. And it was probably… hmm, 2 months after that we had an event that one of my friends Carrie, who owns a paint studio here at Hopewell, reached out to me and said that she wanted to do a paint party with us and that she would donate 100% of the proceeds. So, she can only hold 30 people and I had exactly 30 people, and we made exactly enough money to start the non-profit from that. So, that’s what when we started the paperwork through Legal Zoom, and all of this {inaudible} happy go lucky stuff. So, it was probably this past September, is what we actually… officially started it.

Eric: All right and, yeah, my roommate does those painting parties. There… uh, she enjoys that. It’s a good thing. Um, so what do you think would have helped your situation?

Stephanie: If I did not have a pool at all.

Eric: Yeah, yeah.

Stephanie: But, unfortunately you know, we did; what do I think would have helps probably with me would have probably been the window alarm, you know. Put window alarms on my doors…on all my windows. But unfortunately, you know as a parent who 3 months before Nathan passed away, I commented on a Facebook post about a drowning and I made the comment that, well if you watched your child it wouldn’t have happened.

Eric: Right.

Stephanie: And three months later, karma kind of got me and it took my son. And then, I look back you know and say, wow, you know, how could I say that to somebody? Because, somebody said that to me once my son passed away and I regret the day I said that, because I don’t know if it was just karma that’s got me or was it {inaudible}time. But, like I said, I mean the window alarms probably would have been the big help, our doors had a lot of safety locks you know, unfortunately, it was a lock on our front and back door where you had to pull the door and you had to turn the lock 3 different times. And, you had to have some strength to lock that door, so… and unlock it. So, Nathan, we’ve actually tried to get me from the village just to see if he could conquer it, and he could not figure it out. So, we were safe in the front, and in the back, but the windows, I didn’t know these things. And this happened you know, now I know everything. Sadly.

Eric: You know we um, we get comments like that all the time in our Facebook, and it’s you know, people who see our educational stuff we put out, or a video or the pool fence pictures and they say, “you know, you don’t need that, just watch your kids”. You know. That would never happen to my kid. I mean… and I’m always not sure, you know the right response to that you know.

Stephanie: Mine’s always, you know, you go to bed at night, your face is in a foam, you go to the bathroom… I understand a lot of today’s children, they have to go to the bathroom with their parents, they just have to… even Chase does, when I’m trying to get the bathroom, he’s at the door opening the door knocking, mommy, mommy. But, you know this all happens; you’re not watching your child 24/7, you can’t and the more children you have, the less attention each child gets. So, it happens; nobody’s above it, nobody’s drown proof, it’s not happening.

Eric: You know, and I always tell people actually, the parents … the parents who say that they always watch their kid, those terrified me way more than the ones who you know admit that they can’t watch your kid 24 hours a day, that they need little more protection and, you know, to get you know, the door window alarms and the pool fence, and the ASR and you know those parents who take the necessary steps and you know admit that it’s impossible to watch a kid you know constantly. Yeah, the ones that scare me the most are the ones that say no, no I always watch my kid. I’m good. Because, they’re… that means that they don’t take it as seriously as they should be. And, they’re not aware of what reality is, you know. So, what’s next for Nathan’s Water Wings? What do you guys do next?

Stephanie: We are looking into doing another paint party since it was so successful. (Chase turn that down please) Sorry, this is why I wish she was at school right now. Hold on.

Eric: Yeah.

Stephanie: here we go. Sorry about that lovely joys of having children.

Eric: No problem.

Um, but we plan on doing a paint party in September since, you know, the very first one we ever did was very successful.

Eric: Yeah

Stephanie: That is our next one, we haven’t picked the date yet or anything like that. Um, and in a November, we’re doing a Hershey fundraiser with the Hershey factory cuz you know, I looked into it and I’ve talked to people who’ve done candy bar fundraisers and how successful that they become with us. So, we’re gonna try to do a Hershey fundraiser.  I did reach out to Walmart and a shop right down here in our local area, and they said that you’re more than welcome to sit outside and sell it on. So we’re gonna give it a whirl and see how that goes. We did just have her first annual beef and beer, um June 20th, and that was pretty successful.

Eric: What was that I heard you say? I don’t know what that is?

Stephanie: What? Beef and beer?

Eric: Yeah, that’s not a thing we do down here.

Stephanie: A beef and beer is… well, you can have it anywhere, we chose to have it at a bar where …and the reason why we did is because this bar has you know volleyball had horseshoes, pool tables, had cornhole, had adult Jenga. So, it had a lot of activities to do, on top of having fun. But beef and beer is, you know, you pay them out and you get all you can eat. Whatever we should pick for that meal, which we ended up having bris beef, pulled pork and chicken fingers, green beans and a French fries, and Caesar salad. And then you get unlimited bar beverages, we had Miller Lite. Unfortunately, we didn’t have Addling, because we were actually one shy of having two drafts… or unlimited wine. So, that’s what a Beef and beer is up here is you know, you go out you have a couple drinks you enjoy yourself you have food and you’re supporting the calls.

Eric: Okay, very cool. Is that a common fundraising…

Stephanie: Up here, yes. Usually, a lot of the organizations up in the North Shore, or northern area, do a lot of beef and beers because they are very successful.

Eric: Gotcha, yeah down here is a sober crowd. We do a lot of 5 K’s, and you know, they’re probably eating kale and arugula, and you know, it’s a different …it’s a different group you know. So yeah…

Stephanie: I’m not for the kale and arugula and…no.

Eric: I stopped eating carbs 174 days ago, and clearly I’m, you know, definitely I keeping track at all. So yeah, it’s been a sort of process, you know, but a lot of salad in my life these days.

Stephanie: I will stay with my carbs, and my chocolate, I am sorry.

Eric: I missed the chocolate a lot. I was a big, big chocolate guy and yeah, I love chocolate a lot. And it’s been… it’s been tough chocolate, and mac and cheese have been the 2,  2 big things that have been hurting me a lot, but it is what it is. Hopefully, I won’t be a giant forever, that’s the plan; to lose a little bit of weight, but of the 5… you know, simple steps to saving lives, which one stands out to you?

Stephanie: ISR.

Eric: ISR? Why, is that?

Stephanie: Well, I understand that you know, people say adult supervision but unfortunately, again same situation with Nathan, you cannot watch your child at all times. So, that layer…90% of the time that layer is going to fail. Fences, I can’t say that you know my son Nathan wouldn’t have figured out a fence. Because, he probably would have; he was clever enough that he would have stacked a bunch of toys that are in the yard until he could climb over like he was clever when it came to that. You know, the pool alarms …well, and the water alarms, I’ve seen a million of them fail you know the child is already in the pool and they’re already dead and it finally sirens off. So, I can’t say that you know, that’s a safety thing, you know. To me, it’s ISR, because if they get in that pool, they’re gonna know how to swim. And if they’re young enough, they’re gonna learn how to like literally just roll over just blow and they’re gonna be able to scream at that point. And, you’re gonna hear them and you’re gonna get out. So, to me it’s ISR and I think that’s… I’m not saying that the other ones aren’t important because they are. There’s layers… there’s those five layers, but when push comes to shove, to me, the ice… the swimming lessons is what’s the most important.

Eric: And for anyone who doesn’t know real quick, the vibe… I like, I do 5.5 layers because I’m weird. I like you know, adult supervision, locks all the doors and windows that lead to the pool alarm. Alarm the doors windows that leads to the pool, a pool fence that separates the home from the pool, alarms in the pool, swimming lessons, like I ISR like you said. And, for me, that the {Inaudible} one at the end because it’s not really {inaudible} CPR and because it’s not really a layer of protection, you know, the kids already you know, been in the water and now this is afterwards, so I knew a 0.5 for it, but you know, obviously important you know, a lot of people alive right now because someone had CPR or in the case of Laura Metro, you know she had someone who didn’t know CPR but had seen it on television, and he did what he knew, and it worked and the you know, Clay is all right now because of that, you know. So…

Stephanie: That’s me, I never have took in a CPR class, I’ve never had to do CPR class.  I knew nothing about it. I mean, I’ve watched what happened on TV and I took a TV experience and I throw it on my son. I was very blessed and lucky that my husband, Nathan’s father which is Matthew, he is the vice president over organization, he used to be a junior firefighter, and then he used to be at our junior EMT… excuse me… and he was a fire-fighter for a Penza township, which is the town that uh Nathan passed away. So, my husband had to know CPR, he had to know those life-saving skills. So, that’s why I left my son with him, why I went because I knew daddy had it.

Eric: Right, make sense absolutely, you know. And so, you guys gonna do the painting party, right?

Stephanie: Right.

Eric: And you’re raising the money obviously for the ISR and stuff, right?

Stephanie: Yes.

Eric: So, if anybody wants to find you guys, where can they find you?

Stephanie: They can find me on Facebook at /Nathanswaterwings, or they can actually physically call me, which is my phone number is 856-378-3007.

Eric: That’s it and if there was something that you wanted parents to know, what would it be?

Stephanie: That your child’s not drowned proof, you’re not perfects, we all make mistakes and it takes the bigger person to admit that you’re not perfect, that you do make mistakes, and that you don’t watch your child at all times. And, accept it and do what’s needed to make sure that your child has a fighting chance in life. Give them the ISR lessons, you know. If you don’t own a pool, that doesn’t mean that grandma doesn’t have a pool, that doesn’t mean Aunt Sharie doesn’t have a pool or your neighbour doesn’t, you know. It’s… regardless whether you don’t have a pool or not, get these lessons. You know that’s why I’m here, that’s why a lot of these organizations are here, is to help families get the layers and the sources that they need to make sure that their children are safe. And, you know I’m the type of mom that if somebody comes to me tomorrow and you know we don’t have money in our organization and this family has an inground pool and their child is pretty much, you know, autistic, and they did the things that Nathan did, I’m gonna take that money out of our own family pocket, and I’m gonna give that child that scholarship because to me, I don’t want that parents you know what I went through. And if I can do anything to stop it.  I’ll do it.

Eric: Perfect, and if someone wanted to donate money to Nathan’s Water Wings, they could do it through the Facebook or…?

Stephanie: They can do it through the Facebook; there is a donation button is linked to PayPal; as of right now we are still working on you know getting a website up, I have to find somebody unfortunately that knows how to do it because I sat down and I try to do it and I ended up throwing my computer. I don’t have the patience for that, so I need you to find somebody that knows how to get the website up and running. But for now, yes on our Facebook page everything is there you know. You can donate, you can ask questions, you can send me a message, you can call me, whatever you need, I am always available. I don’t care if it’s 1 o’clock in the morning.

Eric: Perfect, all right. Everything’s 501 C 3, tax deductible the whole nine

Stephanie: Yep, yep.

Eric: Perfect, all right well thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

Stephanie: Thank you.

Eric: And, you know, everybody should go to your Facebook check it out and hopefully we can you know stop this from happening so often. It’s…

Stephanie: We just had a drown thing here. As a matter of fact, a township away, literally five minutes down the road.  Not even actually that there was a 17 year old boy who drowned in the lake and that’s it just goes to show that it’s not just children that are drowning. I mean it’s me children are the most important but a teenager that 17 years old drowned, but you know, it happens that anybody.

Eric: Absolutely, all right. Well, bye Chase! Take it easy.

Stephanie: Chase, Eric say bye, you gonna say bye?

Chase: Bye

Eric: Bye, alright. Bye Stephanie.

Stephanie: Bye Eric, thank you.

Eric: Thank you