ROCK ISLAND, Illinois — After suffering an unimaginable loss, a local mom is making sure no other parent loses a child to drowning.
Nikole Queen’s two-year-old son Hawk Newberry fell into the Mississippi River on July 24, 2018.
“He was a tough boy,” Queen said. “He was a little chunk.”
One second Hawk was standing on the dock at Schwiebert Park and the next, he was gone. It took crews almost two weeks to recover his body.
“He was the best baby brother and the best little boy I could ever know ,” Queen said.
One year later, Queen said she’s found a new purpose.
“I don’t want anyone else to feel the way that I know we feel,” she said.
She’s found support in a new friend: Denise Purifcato, who lives nearly 1,000 miles away in Long Island, New York.
Purifcato understands Queen’s pain. Her two-year-old daughter Galaxy drowned about a month after Hawk.
“She was very smart, very funny and very beautiful,” Purificato said.
The two women met online, discussing their new passion to warn parents to be prepared before they let their kids get into any water.
“Personally, I just don’t think, you know, I could’ve gotten through this last year without her,” Queen said.
Queen has made fliers with ways to prevent drowning.
At the top of the list is constant supervision.
“You don’t even sit there and take pictures because is taking a picture worth losing your child?” Purificato said.
“They can learn to rescue themselves,” Queen said.
The mothers also recommend enrolling children in survival swim lessons, which Purifcato’s daughters are taking now. There, children learn the best thing to do is float horizontally on their backs if they get in trouble.
Both moms said they didn’t know drownings were common, but the Centers for Disease Control ranks it as the leading cause of accidental death in children under four.
“Had I known that, she’d known that, these stories could be different,” Purificato said. “That’s why we want to make it different for other people.”
Hawk’s family is inviting the public to celebrate the two-year-old’s life with them at Shwiebert Park on July 24.
Queen said they’ll be walking the park in honor of her son and sharing safety tips. They’ll also have games for kids and be raising money to print more safety pamphlets.
The memorial starts at 6 p.m.
“Parents think that it can’t happen to them and it can and it is and it’s happening every day,” Queen said.