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

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Ohio Mom hosting water safety school presentations

Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project
Dave Benjamin, Executive Director

Ohio Mom who lost son in Lake Erie bringing
water safety presentations back to Geneva & Ashtabula this week 

Amid two Holiday Weekend Lake Erie drownings
Great Lakes Drownings Increase in 2017 as
2016 drownings were up 78% over 2015 

GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) announces that Melissa Zirkle will be hosting Great Lakes Water Safety Presentations this week in Geneva and Ashtabula, Ohio.  The GLSRP also releases its updated drowning statistics.

Zirkle, who lost her son, Jermaine, 13, in a 2013 Lake Erie drowning accident will be hosting 11 Great Lakes Water Safety Presentations on Tuesday and Wednesday. In 2015 Zirkle’s past water safety advocacy won her the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s (NDPA) Lifesaver of the Year Award.

  1. Tuesday, May 30, 7:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Geneva Middle School, 839 Sherman St., Geneva, OH 44041 (3 presentations)
  2. Tuesday, May 30, 10:30 a.m. ABC Childcare and Learning Center, 2012 W 11th St, Ashtabula, OH 44004 (3 presentations)
  3. Wednesday, May 31, 8:15 a.m. to 2:05 p.m., Geneva High School, 1301 South Ridge Rd E, Geneva, OH 44041 (5 presentations)

“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.”

“My son’s life could have been saved had he only known to ‘flip, float, and follow’,” said Zirkle.  “We lived our lives on Lake Erie and were not educated about its dangers.”

“Having water safety in the curriculum is important to me because I know firsthand what it’s like to experience the outcome of not being educated in its dangerous currents.”

“In schools today we have fire drills, tornado drills, active shooter drills, and some even have earthquake drills, but very few schools have any water safety education,” said Dave Benjamin GLSRP Executive Director.  “Unfortunately though drowning kills more school-aged children each year than fires, tornadoes, school shooters, and earthquakes combined.”

“Working in water safety and drowning prevention, it’s easy to see the big picture of drowning,” said Bob Pratt, GLSRP Executive Director.  “It is a nationwide and worldwide epidemic that still gets very little attention or funding.”

In 2016 the GLSRP tracked 99 Great Lakes drownings plus 6 more drowning accidents that were last listed in critical condition; 18 of those drownings were in Lake Erie.  In 2017, there have been 5 Lake Erie drownings and 1 missing. Overall since 2010, the GLSRP has tracked over 557 Great Lakes drownings (Full statistics here).

Amid Two Lake Erie Holiday Weekend Accidents
05/27/2017 – John Doe, M-?, East Lake, OH. Boating accident behind Village Hall. The 17’ boat may have hit a breakwall. No lifejackets

05/28/2017 – John Doe, M-25, canoe capsized while fishing on Lake Erie east of County Road 45 in Kingsville. Friends on shore saw his canoe capsize. He was “believed to a non-swimmer” and he wasn’t wearing a life jacket.

“Unfortunately we know that the big picture of drowning continues to be a neglected public health issue [2015 WHO report] and we know that it needs to be part of the school curriculum and addressed year round,” said Dave Benjamin, GLSRP executive director.

“Water safety and drowning survival is not common sense. It’s a silent epidemic that gets very little proactive funding or attention.”

“We believe that water safety and drowning survival is not rocket science,” Benjamin added. “It is simple bullet pointed information that is not being efficiently or effectively delivered.”

According to Benjamin, if you ask anyone anywhere in the United States, ‘what do you do if your clothes catch on fire’ they will tell you, ‘Stop, Drop, and Roll.’ But ask them ‘what do you do if you are drowning’ and you’ll most often get silence and blank stares.

Since June 2011, the GLSRP has performed 363 Great Lakes Water Safety Presentations in 7 of the 8 Great Lakes states; 170 of those occurred in 2016 and it has plans for a lot more in 2017.

“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.  The curriculum targets elementary students, Junior High students, High School students, parents of each age group, and trainers of the curriculum,” Benjamin concluded.

According to the latest Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics drowning is the:

  • Leading cause of accidental injury death for children 1-4
  • 2nd leading cause for children 1-14
  • 5th leading cause for the entire nation
  • 3rd leading cause worldwide


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 (551+ drownings since 2010)
  2. Performs “Great Lakes Water Safety” presentations and trainings (Over 372 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

Mission: To eradicate drownings by being the leader of Great Lakes water safety by providing training, public preparedness, and public awareness.

Vision: Everyone in the Great Lakes region, nationwide and worldwide, is knowledgeable, engaged and proactive in water safety with an emphasis on the Great Lakes region.


  1. WGN Chicago’s Very Own segment, “Man makes water safety education his life’s passion”
  2. Dave Benjamin’s drowning accident and ‘Because I said I would’ water safety promise video
  3. John & Kathy Kocher’s “Gentle Giant” ‘Because I said I would promise video.

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