July 30, 2004

DEL MAR TIMES

Junior Lifeguard program in Del Mar is thriving

By Sheryl L. Parks

Pat Vergne, director of the Junior Lifeguard Program for Del Mar, reports the attendance for the Junior Guard training Program has grown from about 25 kids six years ago to 800 trainees this year. In the program local kids have an opportunity to become proficient in the water but also to build self-esteem, to learn life saving/emergency skills and techniques, to become more physically fit, and learn to respect and appreciate the ocean environment.

When asked what the most important task/skill a young guard will learn, Pat hopes they will learn to recognize and rescue a swimmer in trouble. The Program specifically prepares kids to anticipate, prevent, and respond to emergencies in and around the aquatic environment. Pat also hopes that the graduates will consider applying for a summer lifeguard position.

One of the more impressive training sessions occurs when the Sheriff helicopter lands in Seagrove Park. To show the kids how they locate a distressed swimmer in the ocean while the helicopter hovers up to 100 feet above the ocean.

Pat will often take the trainees to alternative water sites including the slides at Wild Rivers in Irvine. He remembers a fun day when the kids told him that the line for a certain slide was short because it was so easy and not many wanted to bother to ride down it. Pat took the bait. The kids scurried to the bottom of the slide just in time to see the terror on his face. That slide turned out to be the scariest ride Pat had taken in his whole life and his bruised and bloodied elbows told the tale. Pat is well known in the community as fun-loving and respected mentor for the kids in the area.

The Del Mar Foundation values the contribution to kids in the Del Mar through this Junior Lifeguard Program and therefore they again granted $2500, specifically for scholarships for seven students who otherwise might not afford the two week training.

Although the Junior Lifeguard Program is closed for 2004, Pat will begin taking application in January 2005 for the program. The cost is $350. Parents should go to DelmarJG.com for more information.