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

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Lake Erie Water Safety Presentations

Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project
Dave Benjamin, Executive Director

ODNR Sponsoring 10 Lake Erie Water Safety Presentations 

Organized by 2015 Lifesaver of the Year Award Winner, Melissa Zirkle 

Addressing the Vicious Cycle of the Drowning Epidemic

And the need for a water safety school curriculum 

OHIO – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) announces that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is sponsoring 10 GLSRP Lake Erie Water Safety presentations.  The presentations have been organized by Melissa Zirkle for the cities of Ashtabula, Willoughby, Painesville, and Perry. (The presentations are listed below.)

Since 2010, 384 people have drowned in the Great Lakes with 20 percent of those (79) occurring in Lake Erie.

“Safe and enjoyable recreation on Lake Erie is a priority for Ohio,” said Scudder Mackey, chief of the ODNR Office of Coastal Management. “Swimming in the Great Lakes is not like swimming in a pool. Currents formed by natural forces can create unpredictable conditions.”

Jermaine & Melissa

Presentations Organized by Lifesaver of the Year
The classes have all been organized by Ohio mom, Melissa Zirkle.  Zirkle won the 2015 NDPA Lifesaver of the Year Award for her work advocating water safety since her son, Jermaine, 13, drowned in a Lake Erie rip current in 2013.

“Everything I’ve done since Jermaine drowned has been to prevent others from the pain of losing a child or a loved one,” said Zirkle.  “I know my efforts will never bring my baby back to this Earth, but I swore that I’d do all I can to raise awareness by using what happened to him.”

“If one person is saved from all this, then my efforts were worthwhile,” she said.

Promise - Melissa

The Vicious Cycle of the Drowning Epidemic
The GLSRP debuted its “Vicious Cycle of the Drowning Epidemic” presentation at its Beach Hazards & Water Safety Conference April 21 in Michigan City, Indiana.

“When I look at the big picture of drowning, I see this vicious cycle that just keeps swirling around,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the GLSRP.  “And I don’t see any breakthroughs reducing the overall drowning statistics until we break through this vicious cycle.”

The center of the viscous cycle of the drowning epidemic is a WHO report that says that drowning continues to be a neglected public health issue.

According to Benjamin, the Vicious Cycle is that:

  • Each year millions of dollars are spent to bring more people to water
  • People who do not know that drowning is a leading cause of accidental death
  • People who do not have the basic swimming abilities to save their own lives
  • People who unknowingly support the “Stigma of Drowning
  • Then drowning continues to be a neglected public health issue
  • And then millions of dollars continue to be spent to bring more people to water
  • And the cycle continues to swirl around…

Breaking the Cycle – The call for a Water Safety School Curriculum
“We didn’t know how to recognize someone in a drowning situation, about the dangers of rip currents, how to get out of them, and how to save someone or yourself if nobody is around,” Zirkle said.

“Schools practice fire drills, tornado drills, active shooter drills and even earthquake drills, but water safety education is missing,” said Zirkle.

“Unfortunately more school aged children will likely die drowning each year than in fires, tornadoes, and school shooters combined,” Benjamin added.  “A Water Safety School Curriculum is the fastest approach to reach the largest audience and make a significant impact in the shortest amount of time.” (Benjamin’s promise video for a Water Safety School Curriculum)

The curriculum would target elementary students, junior high students, high school students, parents of each age group, and trainers of the curriculum.

Lake Erie Water Safety Presentations this weekend:
Sat., April 25 – free and open to the public
1:20 p.m. Ashtabula YMCA Healthy Kids Day, 263 W. Prospect, Ashtabula, OH
2:15 p.m., Ashtabula YMCA Healthy Kids Day, 263 W. Prospect, Ashtabula, OH

Sun., April 26 – free and open to the public
12:00 p.m., YMCA West Branch, 37100 Euclid Ave., Willoughby, OH
2:30 p.m., YMCA Central Branch, 933 Mentor Ave., Painesville, OH
5:00 p.m., YMCA Outdoor Family Center, 4540 River Rd., Perry, OH 

Mon., April 27
9:00 a.m. Erie Intermediate 4-6th grade, 2306 Wade Avenue, Ashtabula, OH
10:00 a.m. Ontario Primary K-3rd grade, 2302 Wade Avenue, Ashtabula, OH
11:00 a.m. Huron Primary K-3rd grade, 2300 Wade Avenue, Ashtabula, OH
1:00 p.m. Superior Intermediate. 4-6th grade, 2308 Wade Avenue, Ashtabula, OH
2:00 p.m. Michigan Primary k-3rd grade, 2304 Wade Avenue, Ashtabula, OH
GLSRP Drowning Statistics
Like GLSRP’s Facebook Page
Follow GLSRP on Twitter @ripcurrentsafeT


The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Inc. (GLSRP) is about saving lives.  It is a nonprofit 501c3 corporation that is a Chapter of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA).


  1. Tracks the Great Lakes drowning statistics (389 since 2010)
  2. Teaches “Great Lakes Water Safety” classes (Over 135 classes since 2011)
  3. Hosts Surf Lifeguard Certification courses (pics), and
  4. Works with family and friends  of Great Lakes drowning victims to advocate water safety.