Local teen Sydney Peavy was surprised to learn that when people drown, often someone else was present who could have saved them.
Either they were paralyzed by fear from the life-and-death situation confronting them or didn’t know what to do to help.
But Peavy, a 16-year-old junior at Mount Airy High School, decided to take a proactive role to prevent such tragedies by teaching water safety to children and also generating funds for free swimming lessons.
Such efforts were a natural fit for Peavy when she sought a project for the Gold Award given by the Girl Scouts. She is at home in the water, having become a certified lifeguard and water safety instructor despite her young age. Peavy also has swam competitively, including for her high school team and the local Reeves Rapids squad.
Yet there was something even the aquatics enthusiast wasn’t aware of regarding the safety aspect.
“I was surprised when I was researching for this project to learn that statistics show that many drowning incidents occur in front of other people,” said Peavy, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Ken Peavy of Mount Airy.
“A drowning victim usually can’t call for help and once they get to this stage, they only have 20 to 60 seconds before they are actually under water,” she added.
Concerned about area youths, their access to swim lessons and water safety, Peavy attacked the issue with a multi-pronged approach.
Her resulting project included water safety/drowning-prevention presentations to area day-care centers and summer camps.
The student, along with a group of volunteers she recruited to help, also provided free swim lessons during the summer at ProHealth Fitness, sparked by the Make-A-Splash program of Olympics swimmer Cullen Jones.
It didn’t end there. Peavy further decided to launch a photography fundraiser through Reeves Rapids, which along with a letter-writing campaign she mounted and donations solicited led to more than $550 being raised for future swimming lessons for youths at Reeves Community Center.
Catrina Alexander, Mount Airy’s parks and recreation director, said this week that since swimming lessons typically cost $25 to $30, the money generated through the student’s efforts has the potential to impact many lives — and possibly save some as well.
Alexander pointed out that the need for water safety awareness was driven home by two recent incidents in the area, one in which an infant drowned in a bathtub and the other involving a 6-year-old boy being saved from drowning at Homeplace Recreational Park.
“She (Peavy) is very deserving of her Gold Award for her efforts to promote water safety education and providing this wonderful opportunity for area youth,” Alexander said.
Along with the Girl Scout honor, Peavy recently was named a “Make a Splash Hero” by the Make a Splash Foundation for her work in promoting learn-to-swim and water safety awareness initiatives.
“Sydney Peavy and her project should be an inspiration to young people everywhere that want to make a difference in their community,” said Ann Yokeley, a retired educator who chairs the RCC Foundation. It is an arm of Reeves Community Center which raises funds for various recreational programs.
“We are so grateful for her donation.”
Yokeley said the community can build on what Peavy has done by making tax-deductible contributions to the Reeves Community Center Foundation and earmarking them for swimming scholarships.
“I was so fortunate to take all of my swim lessons at Reeves and blessed to continue swimming at the competitive level,” Peavy said.
“I just want to give others an opportunity that they might not otherwise have.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.