Charlie The Savior: International Drowning Prevention Program Inspired By Baywatch

Courtesy of World Open Water Swimming Association.

Today, Dr. Stathis Avramidis launched the international water safety program “Charlie the savior”, inspired by true events of Baywatch and endorsed by the legendary director Greg Bonann and 7 international organizations.

The educational drowning prevention program offers knowledge about swimming, resuscitation, personal survival at sea, lifeguarding, and lifesaving as a sport. The content is presented in an entertaining way with numerous games that can take place at home, school, in the neighborhood, or anywhere in or around the water. The program is freely available in Greek and English.

The Baywatch creator, director and producer Greg Βοnann explained about a young boy Charlie Hayes who was a Baywatch fan, “I just received your children’s educational book “Charlie the Savior” and it allowed me to have a profound and vivid flashback. Back in 1990’s, while directing and executive producing Baywatch, I was introduced to young Charlie Hayes. He had visited the set to fulfill his dying wish as he was suffering from terminal cancer. He stayed with us for several months. I taught him swimming and paddling and even allowed him to direct and act in a few episodes that portrayed lifesaving sport, water rescues and the administration of CPR/AED.

I know that the love and friendship he received by producers and cast strengthened his will to live a little longer. Eventually cancer overtook his phenomenal spirit. His suffering touched us so deeply that we dedicated an episode to him and named it after him: Charlie.

Stathis was inspired by this true story, and blended my life with fiction. And Nikos Kouremenos gave the breath of life to the text, illustrating wonderfully many of our Baywatch characters. It was fantastic to see David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson, Michael Newman, Alexandra Paul, Tai Collins and myself starring again; this time in a children’s book. Helping children is as important to me as having a successful show. Actually, it is more important. Shows come and go, but helping a child achieve a better life, lasts forever.

In 2000, I received the Gold Medallion by the International Swimming Hall of Fame for contributions to the world of swimming via Baywatch, Camp Baywatch, A Chance for Children and lifeguarding. Back then, I had envisioned an international Learn to Swim program, dedicated to drawing awareness to the dire need of teaching children how to be safe in the water. The goal of such a program is to take drowning off the top of the list of killers of children.

Charlie the Savior represents an elegant expression of my vision, through the spiritual “resurrection” of Charlie. It is easy-to-read and yet wise enough to excite children and adults. Its package (book, lessons, games, PowerPoint, certificate) represents an outstanding entertainment and education collection of material focusing on swimming, paddling, first aid, lifesaving sport, and survival at sea for primary schools, summer camps, and lifesaving organizations.

Somehow, it also shows why lifesaving sport is important enough to merit Olympic sport qualification.

Because of Charlie Hayes, I have realized the huge impact that our show was having around the world. We had an obligation that Baywatch would stay special. Stathis’ touching tale hopefully will serve a higher purpose; to save as many children from drowning across the globe as possible. On behalf of A Chance for Children Foundation, I congratulate Dr. Stathis Avramidis, endorse the book and recommend it to parents, children, the U.N. Friends of Drowning Prevention Group, and to all relevant organizations of the world.”

Leading authorities expressed very enthusiastically about the program. Among them are the following three. Brent Rutemiller, CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, commented, “I love this book as it is an educational as well as entertaining story. The message is strong and timeless. The spiritual nature appeals to all ages. Everyone can learn and be inspired by this work. The illustrations are beautiful, impactful and brilliant in color. A must read for everyone who touches water.”

Dr. Harald Vervaecke, Secretary General of the International Life Saving Federation added, “Drowning kills 1.2 million people per year in the world. This amazing story talks about a brilliant boy who was taught by a hero of the sea. Reality mixed with fiction serve a higher purpose; the prevention of childhood drowning. Knowing Bonann personally, I was excited to see Baywatch coming back to life, through this fascinating book. I congratulate Dr. Avramidis for this excellent contribution to lifesaving. This story helps us raise international awareness and prove why lifesaving sport should reach higher levels.”

Dr. Steve Langendorder, ISHOF Paragon Award recipient and Founding Editor of the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, said, “With this illustrated children’s book, Stathis Avramidis, a prolific author of countless lifesaving articles and books, draws upon his lifelong love of the U.S. television show, Baywatch, to create a memorable story of a dying boy who becomes, literally, a lifesaver. The ambitious goal of this book is to be at once readable, educational, and to stir the hearts and minds of readers (including hopefully Greek politicians) to reduce drowning and improve water safety.”

The creator of the program, Dr. Avramidis, is a two-time winner in the International Swimming Hall of Fame, an Academic Fellow of Applied Lifeguarding and Lifesaving Sport in the School of Sports Science and Physical Education at the University of Athens, and President of the Greek Lifesaving Sports Association. He said, “Education and lifesaving sport are the best means to reduce injuries in and around the water. This program serves a higher purpose and a personal promise. I thank my colleagues, the organizations that endorsed it, the reviewers and those that will implement it. Moreover, I warmly thank Greg Bonann, who since 2010, has kindly supported many of my water safety and lifesaving sport initiatives.”

The text of the program came to life, thanks to the talent of Nikos Kouremenos. With several thousands of artwork published in books and magazines to his credit, in the field of first aid, lifesaving, lifeguarding, swimming, near-death experiences, drowning and water safety, Kouremenos is one of the most prolific illustrators in the world. He commented, “To illustrate the program, I went through several hundreds of photos that portrayed the real actors of the series. The final synthesis was the outcome of the ideas I gained from those photos and the creative vision of Stathis. It took endless work for months. But the final product and the response we gained from those that reviewed is very rewarding.”

Before Charlie passed away, he wanted his short life to have a purpose. His spiritual resurrection through this program will hopefully contribute to the safety of many children.

The program was approved by several organizations including the Greek Lifesaving Sports Association, the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the International Life Saving Federation, the Royal Life Saving Society Commonwealth, the International Federation of Swimming Teachers’ Association, A Chance for Children Foundation, the World Open Water Swimming Association and the International Water Safety Foundation. The Royal Life Saving Society Commonwealth said, “The Royal Life Saving Society is the largest drowning prevention organization in the Commonwealth with member branches in 29 Commonwealth nations. Our Patron is Her Majesty The Queen and Commonwealth President is His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent GCVO.

We are pleased to support the children’s educational book, Charlie the Savior which strives to enhance water safety awareness amongst children. Drowning is a major public health issue especially amongst children across the globe. We wish the author and long time RLSS supporter, Dr Avramidis the best of luck with his endeavors.”

Dave Candler FSTA, MCIMSPA, Tecch IOSH and CEO of the International Federation of Swimming Teachers’ Association, wrote, “The International Federation of Swimming Teachers’ Associations Limited represents and unites the world’s swimming teaching bodies in the common goal of reducing deaths by drowning through improving standards in teaching swimming and other survival techniques. As an international body, IFSTA supports its members worldwide by working together to achieve IFSTA’s objective to promote internationally, the highest standards in the teaching of swimming and other survival techniques. IFSTA is a non-profit organisation that was set up by the UK’s Swimming Teachers’ Association to provide a platform for independent swimming bodies to share and disseminate the principles of best practice.

Drowning is a global threat and tragic reality, and scholarly efforts such as this book, that offer a fresh approach to young people and unity among relevant organizations, should be encouraged.”

Emannanouil Velonakis, MD, MPH, PhD, Former Teaching Staff, National School of Public Health and Former Deputy Scientific Responsible, Central Public Health Laboratory (Greece), said, “The 2014 global report on drowning shows that age is one of the major risk factors for drowning. This relationship is often associated with a lapse in supervision. Globally, the highest drowning rates are among children 1–4 years, followed by children 5–9 years. In the WHO Western Pacific Region children aged 5–14 years die more frequently from drowning than any other cause.”

The book is divided into two main chapters; the main story and the educational part. The story engages the interest and the tests with the point system that leads eventually to two certifications, motivates the reader to learn more. It is user friendly and well illustrated. The book will excite mainly children between 6-12 years old as well as the adults. We all hide a child inside our heart. I am happy to recommend this book for international distribution to everyone, organization or individual around the world. It can be a wonderful contribution to our educational water safety aids.”

The full package of the International Drowning Prevention Program “Charlie the savior” can be downloaded freely here.

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