Online Fundraiser Started to Aid Junior Lifeguards Recoup Losses From Fire

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Rubble where junior lifeguard equipment was once stored

Where once sat two structures used to house all sorts of equipment and materials used by a local youth lifeguard program, now lay ash, soot, burned and twisted metal, and the remnants of a building’s frame.

A trailer and storage unit used by the Junior Lifeguard Program at Leo Carrillo State Beach were burned to the ground when the Woolsey Fire blazed through popular beach and campground days ago. 

Now, money is being solicited to replace the junior lifeguard complex and the lifeguard program’s gear that was inside, via the popular fundraising website GoFundMe.com. 

An organizer of the “Leo Carrillo J.G’s Fire Fund” fundraiser said everything contained in the trailer and storage unit—lifesaving equipment, uniforms, paddleboards and office, operational and training equipment—were destroyed by the wildfire.

“Everything is gone,” the petitioner wrote. “Please help us raise the funds to get this program back up and running so our kids have their summer ‘home away from home’ to come back to.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Nov. 15, $9,710 of the campaign’s $50,000 goal had been raised. The funds will be given to the Santa Monica Mountains Natural History Association, the Malibu organization that funds and supports education and interpretive programs at Leo Carrillo State Park.

The junior lifeguard initiative is a program held on the beach that introduces youth to safe marine and aquatic recreational opportunities; it stresses qualities such as leadership, teamwork and ocean safety. Participants learn activities like body boarding, body surfing, body paddling, open water swimming, snorkeling, surfing and surf rescue. 

Thousands of kids have taken part in the junior lifeguard program, according to the GoFundMe page, “making their emotional and physical lives better through the spread of lifesaving knowledge.” 

Donors left messages of support in the page’s comment section. 

Julie Gorton said she had spent time at Leo Carrillo Beach as a teenager.

“I donated because both my nieces have spent multiple summers and have valuable skills, memories and friends as a result,” she wrote. “Good luck to all and Please! Rebuild!”

Natalie Schauwecker wrote, “I love you Leo JGs.” 

A donor named Robyn shared the junior lifeguard program shaped her into the woman she is today.

“It was where I first fell in love with lifesaving and drove me to become a lifeguard and later Jr. Lifeguard Instructor. I have seen so many of our kids go on to do the same and become coworkers and lifelong friends. We took a hard hit with the fires that swept through and lost everything. Although we lost all our equipment and facilities our heart is bigger than ever.”

Wildfires tore through Leo Carrillo State Park, and the junior lifeguard complex wasn’t the only part of the park decimated by the blaze. The visitor center, sector office, employee residences, three lifeguard towers, several restrooms and Leo Shop structures were also destroyed, according to a statement on the park’s website announcing its closure due to the Woolsey Fire. 

The GoFundMe organizer wrote that the lifeguard program keeps children in a safe and active environment during the summer.

“It is important now, more than ever, to give these kids the continuity of the Leo Carrillo Jr. Lifeguard Program this summer as our community grapples with the devastation around us.”

To make a donation, visit gofundme.com/leocarrillo-jrguards-fire-fund.