MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Three locations on Lake Minnetonka will provide free life jackets for the rest of the summer.

Boaters can borrow life jackets through the Kid’s Don’t Float Program, courtesy of the Safe Kids Northwest Metro Coalition, North Memorial Medical Center, and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

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The life jackets will be available on Lake Minnetonka at Gray’s Bay, Spring Park Bay, and Maxwell Bay.

At each of these boat launches, boaters will see a large self-serve storage container filled with life jackets. After a day on the lake, boaters simply return the jackets to the containers.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek says life jackets are the most crucial element of boat safety.

“Keeping everyone safe is essential to enjoying a day on the lake,” said Stanek. “Please remember that putting a life jacket on a child is just as important as putting them in a seatbelt and it could save their life.”

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The program emphasizes the safety of child boaters, and carries a large supply of child-size jackets.

Patty Reicks, Pediatric Trauma Coordinator for North Memorial, says adult-size jackets are unacceptable for children.

“We want kids and adults to wear life jackets that fit properly to keep them safe on the lake,” said Reicks. “If a child is wearing an adult-sized life jacket that is too large, the child could slip out of it during a water emergency.”

Minnesota law requires that kids under age 10 wear a life jacket while any watercraft is underway. In addition, it is recommended that children of all ages wear life jackets while boating. Most boating fatalities are not from collisions, but from capsizes and falls overboard.

It is recommended that weak swimmers and non-swimmers wear life jackets in lakes, swimming pool or any body of water. Adult supervision is highly recommended for children.

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For more information, contact Major Tracey Martin at (612)919-4864, (612)919-5918 or tracey.martin@co.hennepin.mn