Transcript of Interview with Megan Cleary of The Canadian Red Cross

Q: Tell us about your audience.  Is your program primarily focused on children, teens, adults or all three?

A: The Canadian Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety’s mission is to “Improve the quality of life by preparing people to make safe choices, increase physical fitness, prevent injuries, and act in  emergency and rescue situations”.

 Our Swimming and Water Safety aim is to reduce drowning and water-related injuries and fatalities by providing Canadians with:

  • the awareness and knowledge to recognize and avoid dangerous situations;
  • the knowledge and skills required to save lives
  • the basic rescue skills to enable them to save others; and
  • the knowledge and awareness to recognize hazardous environments and equipment in their communities and to provide solutions.

 Therefore our program is focused on everyone! Our learn-to-swim program has lessons available for all age groups, from 6 months all the way up to adults and teens. We encourage all Canadians to stay safe in, on, and around water!


Q: Do you find your mascot(s) are more effective with a large or small audience?  Our mascot, Buckles the Lifejacket, works very well with both large and small audiences.

A: He most often attends street fairs, parades, media presentations, trade shows, and special events at local pools. He also attends small Swimming & Water Safety workshops accompanied by staff/volunteers to help spread the word about staying safe in, on, or near water. This includes learning how to select and use a proper lifejacket.  


Q: How do you adjust your teaching/program for larger or smaller audiences?

A: When working with smaller groups, our Swimming and Water Safety staff and/or volunteers will do demonstrations on how to select the proper lifejacket, how to wear it, and why it is important to do so. We also will conduct fun activities with smaller groups of children or youth, or give out activity sheets such as the attached sample. For larger forums like parades and community events, Buckles will be accompanied by staff/volunteers and will help us provide information hand outs to parents and children about water safety.


Q: What are you teaching and how does your mascot(s) play a part?

A: In addition to providing Swimming Lessons, the Red Cross provides information on Swimming and Water Safety, Drowning Prevention, Boating Safety, and Lifejacket Safety. For information on these topics can be found here. Buckles is especially helpful in helping to promote the proper use of Lifejackets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs). Below are a couple of links to blog entries about some of his visits around Canada, and they include fun pictures! If you check out “Buckles Visits Parliament Hill” you will see pictures of the Buckles Mascot that Sugar Mascots created for us!

o   Buckles Visits Parliament Hill

o   Buckles Takes Water Safety Message on the Road

o   Buckles is on the Move Again


Q: Do you have one educational topic or several?

A: Again, we cover several topics mentioned above, but Buckles is a great way for us to  help spread the word about Boating Safety, and Lifejackets/PFDs.


Q: How does the audience interact with your mascot(s) in your program?

A: Buckles doesn’t speak, but he certainly knows how to wave and dance at special events! Kids love to come up to Buckles to give high fives and wave hello to him. We also like to take Buckles to conferences and trade shows specific to boating, parks and recreation, or camps, and typically there are only adults present at those events. But as soon as Buckles makes an appearance, people love to take selfies with him and tweet about Water Safety and Lifejackets!


Q: Can you think of a memorable moment shared between a member of the audience and your mascot(s)?

A: Buckles visiting Parliament Hill was definitely memorable! He met with school children and Parliamentarians to raise awareness around the importance of lifejacket use in and around the water, and the effectiveness of lifejackets in drowning prevention.


Q: What advice would you give to other organizations considering using mascots for educational programs or purposes?

A: Mascots are a great way to get the attention of all age groups! We definitely recommend having mascots!  Be sure to create policies about their use for staff, rental policies for anyone looking to book a mascot for a special event, and remember to have fun!


Megan Cleary works with The Canadian Red Cross as Water Safety Program Representative.