Being Water-Wise


May is the beginning of swim season as beaches, pools, water parks and splash pads begin to open, and people spend more time outdoors. May is also National Water Safety Month. This annual campaign is supported by the Pool & Hot Alliance, the American Red Cross (ARC), the National Drowning Prevention Alliance and the National Recreation and Park Association. Their goal is to raise awareness and prevent water-related fatalities, illnesses, and injuries.  Today, we're going to hear from Benny Saint Romain, RFC Manager, Equipment & Facilities Manager, Certified Pool Operator, ARC Water Safety Expert, "Keeper of the RFC Pool", Personal Trainer and my friend of almost 35 years!  

In Benny's Words...

I know a lot about being water-wise as a professional and a survivor and want to share two stories with you.  When I was 3 years old, I was at Long Beach, NC with my family enjoying the waves and playing in the ocean. The high tide was coming in and waves were getting stronger. While in the surf a wave overtook me, and I remember tumbling towards the beach. Still submerged, I then felt the current pulling me out towards the ocean. My mom couldn’t swim and began to panic. As she was frantically searching the surface of the water, she felt me bump into her leg. She reached down and pulled me to safety. She carried me to the beach and we both were relieved to be back on dry land. It took me many years to get over my fear of water, which no one would believe today. I remember taking countless swimming lessons and being one of the oldest in those classes. My brother learned how to swim before he was 5 years old. I struggled until I was 12 with just getting the basics.

As I started my water journey, I had the opportunity to use a friend’s backyard pool.  For hours, I practiced the swimming skills I had learned over the years.  I finally started feeling more comfortable and was able to glide through the water. I didn’t have the pressure of others watching me and had the freedom to explore and go at my own pace. I practiced all summer and got much better with my swimming skills. When I turned 15, I took the American Red Cross Lifeguarding course. I was still not that confident as other students in that class.  They were on the swim team and very good at swimming. I didn’t let that deter me and I earned my lifeguard certificate in 1985. I have been a lifeguard since then.

After graduating college in 1992, I became the first Aquatic Center Supervisor at the Roanoke Rapids Parks and Recreation Department. The aquatic complex consisted of three outdoor pools and one indoor pool. I was in charge of 25 lifeguards and year-round programming of the city.  One experience that changed me forever was when an 8-year-old jumped off the diving board and didn’t come back to the surface. I was walking past the pool and the lifeguard in the stand entered the water. I knew the situation was serious when I saw the look on her face. She activated the emergency action plan and three other guards joined me with the rescue efforts. The child had a serious medical condition and lost consciousness under the water. I began CPR and the minutes seemed like hours. EMS was on there way and about the time they arrived, the child showed signs of life. I rolled him to his side, and he coughed up a lot of water. After a couple days in the hospital, he made a full recovery. I was so glad that I could help and had the skills to make this story a happy ending.  It's not just me, but numerous other professionals who acted together and made a difference. 

Water safety is a skill that, I believe, everyone should have.  You never know when you might need the skills personally or use the skills to help someone else.  Check out this link on Safety Tips - National Water Safety Month for more information about water safety tips.  Also, visit the Recreation and Fitness Center (RFC) newsletter to see what's happening in our pool.  


About Author

Celeste Cooper

Wellness & Fitness Manager

Celeste has been in the science, health and wellness field over twenty-five years. She began as a research chemist with a concentration in genetics and nutritional biochemistry. After working in the medical field, she saw the need to follow a path of proactive wellness and prevention. After receiving her Masters in Health Education, she ventured into the mind/body world receiving training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Yoga. Shortly after, she received the 2003 Wellness in the Workplace Award for a large health system in the state of Virginia. In 2004, Celeste joined SAS Institute, Inc. and continues to be passionate in her position overseeing Wellness and Fitness. She believes curiosity and collaboration bring insight and new ideas which bring out the best in everyone from team members to those who are making healthy lifestyle changes. Believing that the body knows how to heal if given the proper tools, Celeste earned certifications in Aromatherapy and Essential Oils, Classical Chinese Medicine and Homeopathic & Naturopathic Medicine. She earned her Doctor of Naturopathy degree in 2020. Celeste is a published author and practices what she preaches and teaches. She is a nationally recognized Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) and has advanced certificates in Integrative and Functional Nutrition, Genetics and Genomics. She is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) with the National Yoga Alliance, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Instructor, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach (FMCHC) and Certified Yoga Therapist (CYT).

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