CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – A Cranston mother is on a mission to educate others about life-saving water safety steps after losing her 18-month-old son two years ago in a drowning accident in her own backyard.

It isn’t easy to find the strength to turn a painful loss into a life-saving passion, but Karla Sherman is doing just that in memory of Jayce.

“He was so cute. He was a good boy. He loved his dad so much. He loved going outside, loved to go into the pool,” said Karla, remembering what her son was like before a July day changed her life forever.

She says Jayce was taking a nap in the afternoon when he opened the back door and snuck outside. His father went looking for him but didn’t find the toddler right away. He finally went outside and spotted Jayce in the pool.

Karla still vividly remembers the pain and shock of that day. She was at work when it happened, but says knowing what she now knows about pool safety, she feels guilty that she didn’t take some of the steps she now teaches others.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is a leading cause of accidental injury and death among children ages 1 to 4 nationwide.

Karla said she shudders every time she hears about another child lost to drowning. So, she made the decision to put all of her energy into the Jayce the Healer Foundation. The group raises money at events, like the May 15 walk at Roger Williams Park, to purchase life-saving equipment.

“We pass out life jackets and also door alarms for free. Anybody that comes by, especially people with young children, we encourage them to take it,” Karla said.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, between 2010 and 2014, there were nine drownings among young people ages 1 to 19.

There are reminders of Jayce everywhere inside Karla’s home. The family still incorporates his memory into all of their family photos

“He’s still a part of our family, he’s not here, we can’t see him, but he’s still here,” She said.

And now his name, Jayce – which means healer – is on every piece of paper Karla and her foundation hand out in hope that other families will learn life-saving measures from her story of loss.

“It really only takes a second and drowning happens, especially for a small child,” Karla said.

The foundation and its supporters continue to provide life-saving information and free pool alarms. Their ultimate goal is to one day open a facility to teach swimming lessons free of charge to Rhode Islanders of all ages.

Parents and caregivers should make sure they are aware of the following information from and Hasbro Children’s Hospital’s 4 Safety program.

  • Never leave a child unattended in or near waters
  • Teach children how to swim
  • Teach children to stay away from pool drains
  • Ensure all pools and spas – both in your backyard and public pools – have compliant drain covers
  • Install proper barriers, covers and alarms on and around pools and spa
  • Know how to perform CPR on children and adults
  • Take the Pool Safety Pledge, an online call to action that is a reminder to stay safer around the water