Simone Soto Flores

Ari and Simone Soto Flores 

Keep Watch Ambassador

Three years ago Simone Soto-Flores' life changed forever when her energetic, talkative 3 year old son Ari fell from a houseboat during a holiday with his father in the United States and nearly drowned. Ari was not in the water for more than a minute, but the damage was done and he was left with severe brain damage. 

Simone has not let this near tragedy conquer her, but instead is determined to ensure other families don't go through the same heartache. Late last year she became an Ambassador for our Keep Watch toddler drowning prevention program, and passionately spreads the word about the importance of parents and carers being aware whenever their kids are around water. Simone says

"I'm a huge advocate for the Keep Watch message of making sure people realize the importance of being trained in CPR, water safety and water awareness. It has to be drummed in because sometimes you take it for granted, especially somewhere here like Perth WA, we’re surrounded by water and it's such a massive part of our culture."

Simone Soto-Flores crouching beside her son Ari in his wheelchairAri is now 6 years old and continues to amaze doctors. He's able to breathe on his own, smiles, laughs and is trying to talk. Thanks to Royal Life Saving's support of the Wheels For Ari fundraiser last year the family has a wheelchair accessible vehicle. Simone says "Now we can access the community really easily and it's given us our freedom and our life back." 

Royal Life Saving provides financial support for families dealing with long term injuries caused by near-drowning events through our Keep Watch Community Help Grants. According to Simone this support for families like hers is vital; "There are so many things that are necessary to make Ari's life more comfortable, because at the end of the day he's still just a 6 year old little boy and we are trying to be a typical family. These things are exorbitantly priced because it's got the special needs label on it." 

For Simone it's not just the financial assistance Royal Life Saving Society WA provides that is vital, but our soon to be implemented grief counseling and peer to peer network, which is being launched in the 2015/16 financial year to connect people who've experienced a drowning incident in their family to those who can help them. "When we first entered into this realm of new life in the special needs world we had no idea where to turn and the peer to peer support is so important when you have so many questions about what to expect. If you've had other people in the same position as you it just cuts out the unnecessary worry sometimes because you can have a clearer understanding of what's happening." 

One of Simone's biggest hopes is that her family's tragedy can have a positive impact for others.

"I'd love to know that Ari's story is actually creating enough awareness that this doesn't happen to somebody else, and also that the support is there with people like us if anybody should need it."

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