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A life, a legacy: Local family offers free swim lessons to military families; continue son’s memory

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Dalton Williams, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs Office

In the Schlachter family home, right inside one of the bedrooms, hangs a plaque dedicated to their 22-month-old-son, Christopher Schlachter Jr. that is inscribed with the following: “This room is dedicated to a very young man whose accomplishments will never be known.”

A child’s bed, made and adorned with blankets, lies in one corner. A teddy bear and a bookcase filled to the brim with family photos, rests in another. 

“On certain days we’ll walk by, something will smell like him, and it’ll take me back to a specific moment with him,” said Christopher Schlachter Sr. “He always had a smile. He was also mischievous, he would find something and spin around with a smile, like ‘oh I’m busted!’ He put a lot of smiles on people’s faces.”

On May 12, 2007, the Schlachter family lost their son in a drowning accident. He was found within minutes but doctors were unable to revive him.

In order to carry on his name, they started the Christopher Jr. Legacy for Drowning Prevention program in 2016 in partnership with the YMCA in O’Fallon, Illinois.

“Continuing to say his name and keep him alive was extremely important to our family,” said Schlachter. “That's something that we always wanted to share. Our desire is to be able to show that our grief and our loss can also be something positive.”

The Schlachters and their aquatics team personalize the classes down to each family's needs whether it’s military families, grandparents with grandchildren, or children with special needs. Because of donations, the cost of each class is covered by the program. 

Since its inception, the program has provided swimming lessons and educated over a thousand families on proper water safety and prevention in the local community.

“We don’t always get to identify what our road is going to be,” said Schlachter. “It gives me a lot of purpose, knowing that his name is carrying forward and helping people in the process. You don't really die until somebody stops saying your name, and that’s always been a part of our journey to be able to make sure his name continues to be said.”

For more information or to schedule a swim lesson and water safety class, contact Christopher Schlachter Sr. at 916-475-6356.