National Drowning Prevention Alliance
     “Lifesaver of the Year” Award 2012 & 2020
        “Community Lifesaver” Award 2016 & 2018

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Great Lakes Man Wins Lifesaver of Year Award

Great Lakes Man Wins Lifesaver of the Year Award

For drowning prevention advocacy

“Drowning won’t stop, so neither will we.”

841 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010

97 of those in 2019;

48 of 2019 drownings were in Lake Michigan


GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) announces that its co-founder and executive director, Dave Benjamin, has won the 2020 National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s “Lifesaver of the Year” award.

“It’s a great honor to receive this prestigious award,” said Dave Benjamin. “I did not get involved in water safety to win any awards, but it is nice to be acknowledged for all of the hard work that we have done over the last ten years.”

“Drowning won’t stop, so neither will we,” Benjamin quoted the NDPA conference theme. “Even with this pandemic, drowning will continue to be a neglected public health issue.”

Benjamin was set to receive the award at the NDPA National Water Safety Conference today in Fort Worth, Texas, but the conference has been moved online because of the Coronavirus Pandemic’s shelter in place orders.

Benjamin recorded an acceptance speech video that will be aired during the conference Awards Ceremony 2:30 p.m. CST / 3:30 p.m. EST. The acceptance video can be viewed here.

The link to the NDPA conference is:

Benjamin got involved in water safety after surviving a non-fatal Lake Michigan drowning incident in 2010. After the drowning incident, Benjamin dedicated his life to Great Lakes water safety.

Benjamin created a video with another nonprofit, “Because I said I would,” where he explained his drowning incident and his dedication to Great Lakes water safety.  That video can be viewed here.

Melissa Zirkle, who lost her son, Jermaine, 13, in a 2013 Lake Erie drowning incident, nominated Benjamin for the award.

“Dave has spent the last ten years fighting tirelessly to help us keep children safe around the lakes,” Zirkle said.  “I met Dave soon after Jermaine’s accident, and he has been one of the reasons why I’ve made it through the grief since Jermaine drowned.”

“Dave helped me to understand what Jermaine likely experienced in his final moments after being caught in a structural current that day, and he has also been one of my biggest supporters when it comes to my involvement in drowning prevention.”

“Not only is he sympathetic, he is also determined to prevent drownings in the Great Lakes any way that he can. In the last six-and-a-half years of knowing Dave, he has shown me over and over what dedication is.”


  1. Tracks the Great Lakes drowning statistics (840+ drownings since 2010)
  2. Performs “Great Lakes Water Safety” presentations and trainings (Over 860 in 7 of the 8 Great Lakes states since 2011)
  3. Works with family and friends of Great Lakes drowning victims to advocate water safety.
  4. Hosts Open Water Surf Lifeguard Training and First Responder In-service Training
  5. Leads the Great Lakes Water Safety Public Relations and Media Relations Campaigns


843 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010

97 of those in 2019; 48 of those in Lake Michigan

(Last updated 04/09/2020, 9:45 a.m.)

GREAT LAKES, USA – In 2020 the GLSRP is tracking 5 Great Lakes drownings. It tracked 97 Great Lakes drownings in 2019.  Overall since 2010, the GLSRP has tracked 843 Great Lakes drownings. Full statistics here.. (Note: * = (+/-) Awaiting 100% confirmation of drowning.)


74 drownings in 2010

88 in 2011

99 in 2012

67 in 2013

54 in 2014

55 in 2015

99 in 2016

88 in 2017

117 in 2018

97 in 2019

5 to date in 2020

843 since 2010


2020 = 5

Lake Michigan = 3

Lake Superior = 0

Lake Huron = 0

Lake Erie = 2

Lake Ontario = 0