Where we reside in Nebraska, the nearest ocean is thousands of miles away, so it’s rare for kids to get a glimpse of scuba divers emerging from the water.

By Guest Blogger Becky Brown

So how can a group of landlocked divers in Nebraska introduce kids from the Midwest to their sport? Answer: Sponsor a booth at Nebraska’s annual World O! Water. Recently, Greater Omaha SCUBA Club members donated part of their Saturday to bring scuba diving and marine debris awareness to participants at Nebraska’s annual event dedicated to educating the public on water conservation and recreation.

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Each September, organizers welcome the public to “learn what you can do to ensure this invaluable resource [water] is here for us to enjoy now and for future generations.” Although the free event is geared mostly toward kids, anyone is welcome to attend, which is held at Wehrspann Lake in Sarpy County, Neb. In addition to water education opportunities, World O! Water engages kids in fun activities such as nature hikes, crafts, children’s games, animal presentations, science experiments and canoe rides.

Since 2005, attendance at World O! Water has been an annual tradition for many families throughout Omaha and the surrounding communities. This past September, GO SCUBA celebrated its third year participating in World O! Water, and Mark “Skippy” Sidwell (pictured), vice president of GO SCUBA, staffed the booth. An entire scuba kit was spread out on the table for kids to check out — a snorkel, mask, wetsuit, BCD, booties, gloves and fins — but the real draw was the tank and regulator. on hand to give the kids an idea of what it’s like to breath underwater. I staffed the booth last year and it was a treat to see the kids’ eyes light up when they put the regulator in their mouth and get their first gasp of air.

Besides introducing kids to our sport, I asked Sidwell what message GO SCUBA wanted to promote. “Whatever you throw out winds up in the water,” he said. “So, be very, very cognizant of what you throw away. Even if you throw it away responsibly doesn’t mean that whoever picks it up is going to be responsible with it. That’s why recycling is such a big thing.” His message also introduces kids to our club’s annual Dive for Debris, held in conjunction with PADI’s Project AWARE efforts, taking place worldwide.

GO SCUBA’s Dive for Debris took place at Wehrspann Lake, where members of the club picked up litter on the shoreline and down to 8 feet underwater. Divers displayed everything they picked up, to show both kids and boaters what we found, in hopes that they will think twice before littering in the future. On display were pop cans, solo cups, a cell phone, a pair of designer sunglasses, a boat light and a propeller.

To the other landlocked scuba divers out there, please consider staffing a booth at your community’s next water-conservation event (if there is one), participating in a Dive Against Debris, either with Project AWARE or on your own, and share the love of scuba diving with the next generation of divers. Keep diving.

Find more by Becky Bohan Brown at http://population-we.blogspot.com

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