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January 30, 2007 > 11-year-old Junior Lifeguard honored

11-year-old Junior Lifeguard honored

On February 6, East Bay Regional Park District General Manager Pat O'Brien and the Board of Directors will present 11 year old Dennis "DJ" Kay from Fremont with an award for his quick actions that may have saved the life of two year old Troy Blevins last September. During a group camping trip at Van Damme State Park, little Troy Blevins fell into a cold river after the ground gave way underneath him. DJ was nearby and quickly pulled Troy from the river. Having received training in water safety and first aid, DJ recognized the potential for hypothermia and calmly took the necessary steps to keep Troy warm until help arrived at the scene.

DJ's mother, Jo Ann Kay, credits her son's actions to two programs, the East Bay Regional Park District's Junior Lifeguard camp and the Boy Scouts of America, where DJ is a 1st Class scout from Troop 143 in Fremont. "Without both of these programs, who knows how things may have turned out that day on the cold beach south of Mendocino?!" says Jo Ann.

In fact, the Kay family didn't really recognize the magnitude of what happened until later when the story of how DJ saved Troy spread throughout the campground. "From all the reports that were received after the children returned to camp, everyone was crediting DJ with his fast thinking, calm demeanor, and training to handle what could have been a bad situation," adds DJ's father, Steve Kay.

The rescue was extra special for two reasons, first because the two families have been friends for a long time who enjoy abalone diving together and second because it happened to be Jo Ann's birthday that day. Troy was just fine after the incident and even thought it was a bit of a game thanks to DJ's calm manner. And Jo Ann couldn't have had a better gift with Troy safe and her son now considered a hero by all.

Both DJ and his older brother Stephen have participated in the East Bay Regional Park District's Junior Lifeguard program which is a two-week day camp offered throughout the summer at various Park District lakes. Jo Ann Kay originally signed her sons up just to give them something to do one summer but the boys enjoyed it so much, they go back every year. This will be Stephen's sixth summer and DJ's fourth.

General Manager Pat O'Brien is especially pleased to hear that the Kay boys enjoy the camp and are learning critical lifesaving skills. That was the purpose of the program when O'Brien created it back in 1994. A former lifeguard in his youth, he recognized the need for an early training program - the camp is geared toward 9 to 15 year olds - so that when kids turn 16, they will have the appropriate lifeguard skills to get jobs and save lives. But the Junior Lifeguard program has become much more. "What I hear time and time again from parents is that they appreciate the non-competitive nature of the camp. Even timid kids thrive here. Their children make a lot of friends, get plenty of exercise, and come away with a higher level of confidence that is reflected in everything they do." Many camp graduates go on to become full-fledged lifeguards at the Regional Parks, community pools, and beaches.

When Pat O'Brien and the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors heard about DJ Kay's actions, they wanted to commend him for his bravery. Both the Kay and Blevins families have been invited to the February 6 Board Meeting in Oakland where DJ will receive an award. The small ceremony will take place at approximately 2:15pm at the Park District's headquarters at 2950 Peralta Oaks Court in Oakland. The public is invited.


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