05/15/2012 05:14 pm ET Updated May 15, 2012

Wanda Butts, CNN Hero, Teaches Swimming Lessons To Minorities Through 'Josh Project' After Son's Drowning Death

After 16-year-old Josh Butts drowned and died, his grieving mother committed to addressing an alarming statistic.

Nearly 70 percent of African American children don't know how to swim, according to USA Swimming.

As Josh’s mom, Wanda Butts, mourned the loss of her son, she also considered how she could prevent other parents from going through the inconsolable heartbreak she has had to endure.

The Ohio mother, who has been named a "CNN Hero", decided to launch the Josh Project, a nonprofit that provides swimming lessons to low-income families and their children.

The organization is aiming to break a dangerous cycle. Parents who have never learned to swim, often neglect to impart the importance of water safety.

"As a child, I never went around water," Butts, 58, told the news source. "I never went swimming. I didn't know anything about water or life jackets and water safety."

The program has helped over 1,000 children pick up swimming skills -- and to her, that's 1,000 lives saved.

"I'm so happy to see that so many of them have learned how to swim," Butts told CNN. "It takes me back to Josh, and how the tragedy was turned into triumph and it makes me happy."

To learn more about the Josh Project, click here.