By: Ellen Zoe Golden Photos courtesy: Junior Lifeguards
About 20 kids, ranging from age 5-14 got together at Avellanas beach in front of Lola’s Restaurant to participate in a day of competition. Most of the youngsters who participated in the Ocean Swim, Beach Run, Beach Flag Race, Swim Relay, Beach Relay and Tug of War were Junior Lifeguards who are in a program that trains them in lifesaving techniques and beach safety.
The Junior Lifeguard training is run by Samantha Leigh McElvaney, a former Ocean City, Maryland lifeguard. “Our goal is to provide an opportunity for our Junior Guards to model their hard work with attention to fitness and teamwork,” explained McElvaney.
“Additionally, we want to raise awareness and donations to help make this program accessible to all kids in our beachside communities of Guanacaste.”
The Junior Lifeguard competition drew a lot of families to Avellanas including those with kids who are not lifeguards. They were able to see these children are working hard and having fun at the same time. The bystanders cheered the kids on as a motivating factor. In addition, Max Machum, one of the young lifeguards at the event, is “the heart and soul of the No Straw Challenge.”
This project features kids approaching restaurants and bars with the idea of eliminating plastic straws, which end up littering the beaches. Instead, paper straws are suggested for use. Lola’s is supporting the mission and are now using paper straws. In addition, the restaurant donated lunch to all the participants in the competitions and a discount for their families.
The event, which was free, asked for donations. It raised c100,000 to go towards scholarships for kids who want to join in the Junior Lifeguard training program but are not able to afford the tuition.
“As of right now, my husband Tim and I are the only two working as behind the scenes and on the beaches towards this program,” McElvaney said.
“We are so proud of our program and the Junior Lifeguards that participate. Our vision is to be a part of a local, regional, national, and global community of lifeguards. We are focusing on the kids because they are our future. The Costa Rica government has a bill going through legislature: Law for the creation of a lifeguard corps for national beaches. Amongst this is highlighted that: ‘La prevención, por tanto es vital.’”