Lifeguards get a night in the spotlight

For the first time, local lifeguards got to shine in the night, as the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Lifeguard Award Ceremony as a standalone evening event.

Each of seven local beach patrols honored their top guard for the year at the Aug. 15 event, held literally in the Chamber’s back yard. Previously paired with the monthly Chamber breakfast, the lifeguard awards stepped into the spotlight and the twilight of a warm August evening, featuring live music and barbecue.

“Despite a different color of shorts, the job they do — they’re all really on the same team,” said Joe Donelly, Bethany Beach patrol captain.

“I see you every day, out there dragging those chairs,” Chamber President Barbara Howard told the guards. “Knowing that every single one on the beach is safe, that’s why we’re here. … And if [people] didn’t feel safe, they wouldn’t be here.”

Captains of each beach patrol presented their respective honorees. Some guards were chosen, while others were voted to be honored by their peers.

Delaware Seashore State Park is spread across the coast, and Fenwick’s Andrew Hudson was honored among all its guards. After learning to bodyboard and surf locally, Hudson joined the patrol 11 years ago, contributing his athleticism and a solid work ethic.

“He has a great love of the beach and ocean, which is why he keeps coming back,” said Capt. Kris Kanutsen.

A teacher during the offseason, Christian Sears took Bethany Beach’s award after 14 years on the patrol. Donelly said Sears’ leadership, skill and “amazing passion” set him apart.

“He pops through the door and, boom, instant energy boost … and that’s infectious,” Donelly said.

Six years ago, Cailey Aburn followed her sisters into the Town of Fenwick Island’s Beach Patrol. Also in the nursing field, Aburn serves as lieutenant on the beach.

“You talk about work ethic? Nothing short of outstanding,” said Capt. Tim Ferry, noting that she works well with others and willingly does what is asked.

Tommy Mullin received top honors for South Bethany, with just a few years under his belt.

“It’s tough on South Bethany,” said Capt. Ryan Dacey, adding that he hoped to get several more years from Mullin, who keeps returning and climbing the ranks.

North Bethany is entirely lined with private communities, but its beaches are still guarded in-season, with help from lifeguard Phillip DeMott.

Among other things, Capt. Zach Jenney complimented DeMott’s leadership as he steps up to help rookies learn.

Josh Meltzer earned the Middlesex Beach award in just his second year, due in part to his willingness to help at community events, even on days off.

“He’s just really stepped up and become a very good asset to the patrol,” Capt. Justin Voorheis said, adding that Meltzer had wanted to be a guard ever since he was a youngster on the beach.

Logan Linden worked his way up from Sea Colony’s pools to a beach guard, said the patrol’s captain, Dave Griffith. Voted by his peers, the Lifeguard Award was a continuation of last year’s Sea Colony Rookie of the Year honors.

“He was a big reason we did so well at competition.” Griffith said. “Logan worked hard … and his hard work has paid off.”

A popular feature of the evening was the cornhole competition. Each Lifeguard of the Year received a cornhole set, painted with that patrol’s logo and colors, created by toy and game shop Yesterday’s Fun.

Chamber President David Martin thanked the beach patrols, local officials and community members who attended, plus sponsors, including Olde South BBQ & Smokehouse and Coastal Tented Events.