November

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Mother of drowned teen flying to LA Thursday for CNN Heroes

Posted Nov 29th, 2012 by Tankeeya Butts  Category: Arts & Entertainment

 

A woman whose most devastating loss became a focal point in her life’s mission is a top-10 finalist in the “CNN Heroes” national competition, whose winner will be announced in a live broadcast on the cable network Sunday Dec. 2, 2012.

Wanda Jean Butts, founder of Toledo’s Josh Project – named in memory of her 16-year-old son John-Joshua Butts, who drowned in a Michigan lake – will travel to Los Angeles Thursday to enjoy a weekend of recognition by celebrities, including Olympic gold medalist swimmer Cullen Jones.

Josh Project staff hopes that the public, which decides 2012’s top CNN Hero by Facebook voting, will award the program designed to teach children water safety its top prize, a $250,000 grant. Josh has trained 1,200 youths, mainly from urban backgrounds, since 2007.

“I’m almost speechless after looking at where we’ve come from and how this began,” says Butts, affectionately called “Miss Wanda.” “I believe that, worldwide, this media attention will help establish swimming as a life skill that should be taught to all children.”

Youth of color drown three times as often as white youth, Butts adds. Josh is helping to change such statistics, Tankeeya Butts, Butts’ daughter and the program’s executive director, says: “We receive inquiries from around the world, asking if there’s a Josh Project in their neighborhood, or if we’d come to their neighborhood to set up a program.”

Program volunteer Alicia Durham says Josh boosted her 7-year-old son’s confidence in and around water through safety instructions and “intimate” lessons in less than two years.

“When we started the Project, Jaden was only comfortable in the water if someone was with him,” she says. “Now, he’s jumping off diving boards and swimming in areas that are 10-feet deep.”

CNN first identified the program and interviewed participants in May, selecting the Josh Project out of thousands that best fit its “Heroes” criteria. Sunday’s program announcing the 2012 winner will air live at 9 p.m. on CNN.

For interviews or photo opportunities, media may contact Tankeeya Butts at (567) 343-0766. Program volunteer Alicia Durham will watch the live broadcast with a group of Joshua supporters and is also available for interviews; she may be contacted at (419) 349-3525 or (419) 530-3810.

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