Voorhees Mayor: Meet Josh the Otter

The Voorhees Breakfast Rotary is a vibrant and active service club that helps make up part of the 54-club membership of Rotary District 7640, which covers the southern area of New Jersey.

The VBRC has donated thousands of dollars in scholarship money to local high school students and hundreds of food baskets and back packs with school supplies to needy Voorhees families. They have given books to the Virtua Hospital Pediatric Unit and more than 500 videotapes to local senior facilities.

Internationally, the club has raised funds for victims of the tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti.

The club is a fixture at Voorhees community events and sponsors our local Easter egg hunt every year.

The VBRC has undertaken a new project that emphasizes the importance of water safety and awareness. Although the season for swimming is coming to an end, there is never an offseason for drowning tragedy, the second leading cause of accidental death for children five years old and younger in New Jersey. Such accidents can happen in only an inch of water and in less than five minutes. Statistics show that 70% of preschoolers who drown are in the care of one or both of their parents at the time of the tragedy.

With the recent wet weather that caused record flooding throughout our state, water safety is important for children and adults to understand. Swimming skills can be taught to children at the age of 3 months and can save their lives in the event of a water emergency.

Skills include learning to float and to kick to the surface. Preparation and education are the keys to avoiding drowning tragedies. The members of the VBRC are on a mission through their newly adopted “Josh the Otter” project.

The “Josh the Otter” project will be the vehicle that emphasizes the importance of water safety and awareness in our community. The mission is to stress the importance of physical skill building in the water, starting in infant years, and to promote the “Otter Curriculum” which will be donated by the club to schools, daycare facilities and libraries throughout our area.

The curriculum includes a children’s reading book, coloring book and stickers that are fun and educational tools that teach children and parents about water safety.

The core of the curriculum is the children’s reading book that tells the story of Josh the Baby Otter, who learns how to float with his friends in the water, but only when a parent Otter is present. The books are a fun, yet essential tool for families to use when explaining the importance of water safety.

“Otter Sightings” will be planned throughout the school year for Josh to read to students and teach them the “Learn to Float” song. The Otter will also stop at the local infant/toddler swimming programs to inform parents where they can bring their children for professional swim instruction.

The Otter Sightings will debut in Voorhees at the Sept. 24 Movie Night in the Park at 7:30 p.m. at Connolly Park. In addition, Spoon Me Frozen Yogurt in the Ritz Center will be collecting extra change and donations for the Josh the Otter project as part of their September “Keep the Change Program.”

Donations will help the VBRC purchase more Otter Curriculum materials to distribute to children’s facilities throughout Camden County and South Jersey.

To follow the ongoing progress of the VBRC Josh the Otter Campaign and to see where the next Otter Sighting will be, “Like” The Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club’s Josh the Otter Facebook page. For questions and more information on the VBRC efforts to put an end to accidental drowning, contact Chairperson Christina Pinizzotto at cpinizzo@gmail.com.

**The third annual benefit for the Chad Gunther Memorial Fund will be held on Sept. 17 at the E-Lounge, 807 Rt. 70 West, Cherry Hill. The fund was created in 2009 as a living memorial to a young man who loved children, sports and helping others. Though his life was cut short, the fund honors Chad’s memory by helping needy children to participate in various activities and sports. Tickets are $50 per person and include dinner, beverages and entertainment by comedian Paul Venier. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Bob Shulman at 856–782–1666 or at bobshulman@mac.com. Donations can be sent to the Chad Gunther Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 404, Voorhees, N.J. 08043.

**The 2011 Summer Twilight Series concludes with the Township’s Annual Movie Night in the Park on Sept. 24 (rain date Saturday, Oct. 1). The students in the Voorhees Schools will vote on their favorite movie to be shown on the “big screen.” The event is free and begins at 7:30 p.m. at Connolly Park.