KISSIMMEE, Fla. – A local mother is using her tragic experience to help families in Central Florida through her nonprofit organization, Cata's Little Swimmers.
María Martinez's 15-month-old daughter died March 6, 2018.
"Up to this day it's something -- it's hard to understand how it happened, but we still take it day by day," Martinez said.
Her daughter, Catalina, fell into the pool at her home. There was a safety fence around the pool, but it wasn't enough.
"Sometimes locking the door doesn't help. I would suggest a pool alarm so when the door is open there's a, like, a really loud alarm, or covering the entire pool," Martinez said.
A few months after Catalina's death, Martinez created the organization to help families financially by paying part of the cost of swimming lessons.
"When I saw the children that they're able to float, that they're able to go underwater and hold their breath, that all makes me think like, 'Wow, I'm really helping out these people' and it kind of makes me think, that could've been my daughter, too," Martinez said.
Before her daughter's death, she recalled, she looked for information on swimming lessons but didn't find much.
"I did not find anything. I don't know if maybe, for some reason... I didn't look enough or I didn't search the right words," Martinez said.
Since founding Cata's Little Swimmers, Martinez, 21, realized it's helped her cope with the loss and pain and it's a way of keeping Cata's memory alive.
"I know somewhere, wherever she is, she feels glad that I'm helping other kids. I definitely would like for it to be a legacy of hers," Martinez said. "I love seeing the families, I love the kids learning to swim."
Martinez teamed up with Little Aquatics Swim Lessons. Instructors teach babies and toddlers how to swim. Martinez said the organization has helped about a dozen families since its founding. At first, they were able to cover the entire cost for the swimming lessons.
"Currently, we are pretty low on donations....so I think last year, as soon as I opened it, we received some donations and that's it," Martinez said, which is why they now cover only 30 percent of the cost.
Despite the decline in donations, Martinez plans to continue her efforts and hopes her story will help prevent more tragedies.
"If they don't have a pool at home then take this time -- the summer time -- to teach them. People sometimes forget that or they think that just because they don't have a pool at home it can't happen at a recreational activity," Martinez said.
If you'd like to help Martinez continue her foundation, you can contact her via Facebook. Donations are accepted through the Cash App and a Bank of America account is set up under the name Cata's Little Swimmers.