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June 18, 2000

Ellie Nejat can't forget the little boy she lost nearly three years ago.

Some days her grief is so intense, the tears wash off all her makeup.

But Nejat is not letting the drowning death of her 4-year-old son, Armahn Nejat Adams, stop her from helping others.

Nejat, with the help of her employer, holds a water safety awareness day every year in Armahn's memory.

The movement she started with a fellow Target pharmacist, Dan Demumbrum, began with six Target stores three years ago.

On Saturday, more than 100 stores participated, including the one where Nejat works, Seventh Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix. Nejat was there, handing out packets of information, before traveling to Tucson to speak at two other stores.

Nejat said her goal is to prevent other parents from grieving for a child.

''If it can happen to a firefighter and happen to me, it can happen to anyone,'' she said.

Nejat was playing in the pool with her son at their Tempe home on June 22, 1997, when she asked him to go inside and get his siblings. She cleaned the pool while she waited for the children.

Wondering why he had taken so long, she turned and looked toward the house. She was standing in the water when she saw her child on the pool bottom.

She dragged him out, started CPR and called 911. But she, paramedics and doctors couldn't save his life.

''It's very, very painful,'' said Nejat, who now lives in Gilbert. ''It's always with you. It never leaves. There are days I cry when I hear a song or look in the back seat. He had such a big smile. He was such a happy child.''

Her crusade means she has to talk about Armahn and how he died. It's tough, but she said she must share the story and the pain.

''If I can stop a person so that they don't have to go through it, it's worth it,'' she said. ''It's a good feeling I started it. I didn't say no to it and go on like other people.''

Fire officials commend Nejat for her work.

''We have to keep putting the message out to constantly supervise your kids,'' Phoenix fire Capt. Tony Torres said. ''Don't keep your guard down.''

In Phoenix, eight children have died in water-related incidents so far this year, Torres said. Five children died in all of 1999.

Janet and Jamey Stoeber of Phoenix agree that parents must be vigilant. They stopped by the Target store on Seventh Avenue with their son, Michael, 7, and stuffed a bag with fliers and brochures. Janet paused to admire a photograph of a smiling Armahn.

''It's sad to see his little face,'' she said. ''It tears me up.''

Janet said the family has taken every precaution to prevent a tragedy at their home, including teaching their son to swim and enclosing the pool with a fence. But she said she appreciates public events that can help them re-emphasize the dangers.

''We're not trying to scare him, but we want to make him aware all the time,'' she said. ''I think this is great. The more awareness they have, the better.''

Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
Byline: By Monica Davis
©Copyright 2000 Arizona Republic

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