VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Over 100 young children have learned to survive in the water after a Virginia Beach family turned their tragedy into an effort to save lives with the Bean's Way Foundation.
Gabriella Bianchi was a perfect, energetic, smart 2-year-old from Virginia Beach whose family called her "Bean."
Her mother Kimberly Bianchi said she was, “just a perfect little Bean is what I always say.”
A tragic day in August 2019 changed the family forever.
Bianchi went to work and took her daughter to her mother’s house so she could babysit her. But while at work, she got an alarming call from her mom telling her there was a problem with the baby.
Bianchi rushed to her mom’s house and the street was filled with firefighters. She said went to the bathroom and the little girl, who loved to play hide and seek, got into the pool. Firefighters tried, but Bean didn’t survive.
She said there is a misconception that drowning happens like it does in movies, with someone splashing and screaming.
“Downing is very silent and it takes 30 seconds,” said Bianchi.
According to the CDC, drowning is the number one cause of death for kids between the ages of 1 and 4 years old.
Experts say each year in United States, about 900 kids die from drowning and about 8,000 emergency department visits are for nonfatal drowning cases.
Bianchi said the death of her daughter has been really tough, and her family has okay days and bad days.
To get through the tough days and help others, the family started a nonprofit called "Bean's Way." The mission of Bean's Way is to stop children from drowning and educate people through water self-rescue survival classes.
Bianchi said they’ve helped about 100 kids, some as young as 6 months old, learn how to survive in the water.
The classes focus on teaching kids to roll over and float. She said there is a great need for instructors who are able to teach young children, so she took lessons and got certified to teach.
Bianchi and others warn people to be cautious of some swimming devices because they can give people a false sense of security.
“Unfortunately, if you put a puddle jumper on your child, on the arms and the chest, that puddle jumper uses muscle memory,” said Bianchi.
She said some devices cause children to remain vertical instead of horizontal and float in the water. She said it is better for them to learn how to roll over and float in the water in case they are in a situation where they need to survive in the water.
She said she tried to sign Bean up for swimming lessons, but the classes were all full. They told her to call back in the fall, but by that time Bean had died.
Bianchi wants more parents to know about water survival classes. Her goal one day is to have an entire facility to provide ample classes and prevent other families from enduring the immense pain they’ve suffered.
Bean’s Way Foundation is hosting a 5K at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex on August 12. For details, click here.