WAVE program to benefit from lifeguards’ fundraising campaign

Editor’s Note: The “Wave” program is one of 11 nonprofit organizations and programs on the island that will benefit from the 2012 Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association’s 2nd Wave “Help Save Lives” campaign. This is part of a continuing series of reports on beneficiaries and events of the 2nd Wave campaign.

People who love water love Kaua‘i, but the water can become deadly, longtime Kaua‘i resident and aquatic expert Pat Durkin said.

Durkin has been a Kaua‘i lifeguard, owner of a swim school, tour boat operator, aquatic forensic investigator, and leader of the Junior Lifeguard program since first coming to Kaua‘i in 1978 with his wife Janet.

“Education is a proactive approach to drowning prevention,” he said. “I think of all the lives — all the families that are forever affected by their loved one drowning. I think of how preventable it might have been, and I’m motivated.”

Durkin founded the “Water Awareness Visitor Education” (WAVE) program in 2006 and is its director. WAVE’s mission is educating visitors and residents on water safety.

WAVE was modeled after two well-known aquatic programs in Hawai‘i – the Waikiki Beachboys and the Monk Seal protection program. The concept is prevention through education.

The Beachboys were the original beach concierge/lifeguards. They offered recreational activities and became de facto overseers of beach safety.

The Monk Seal program is far better funded and it shows. Visitors and residents alike quickly come to know what to do when you see a monk seal on the beach, he said. Volunteers immediately get into place with yellow tape, a schedule for protecting the seal, and educate those who walk up.

 “The Monk Seal protection program is excellent, well-funded, and the feet on the sand are all volunteers. They’re a great success,” Durkin says. “I’d like to see human lives valued just as much as the monk seals when it comes to funding, volunteers and taking care of one another.”

More than 1,200 individuals and approximately 100 businesses have participated in WAVE training and education, including resorts. In addition to training and education, WAVE has also developed and promotes educational materials such as the Kaua‘i Ocean Report and the North Shore Rip Current poster.

The Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association hopes to raise more funds this year for WAVE and other ocean safety programs, said Monty Downs, a physician and president of the Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association.

“Our goal in 2011 was to drive awareness and community support to equip our lifeguards with needed jet skis and ATVs. That was last year’s KLA First Wave fundraising goal. And our island community was incredibly generous and supportive,” Downs said.

“This year, we’ve selected approximately 11 organizations and programs that help create a sort of life cycle in ocean safety awareness, skills training and education. Ultimately, it all comes together on Kaua‘i to help save lives,” he said.

A series of “KLA 2nd Wave” fundraisers will be announced in coming months to raise funds for WAVE and other nonprofit organizations and programs. To donate or for more information, visit www.kauailifeguards.org. Or email Andy Melamed at andy@kongradio.com.

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