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The death of a respected community member who heroically saved his son from a rip last April prompted one Hunter school to rally for one of their own, and now thanks to their generosity, many more lives will be saved in the future.

A surf rescue board donated by Warners Bay High School in loving memory of Stephen Dick

On their final day as Year 12 students in September Warners Bay High School captains Georgia O’Sullivan and Riley Lowe accepted a surf rescue board purchased using funds raised by both the school and wider community to honour the memory of the late Stephen Dick.

Mr Dick was holidaying with his family at Boomerang Beach on the Lower North Coast when his son was swept away by a powerful rip. After going to his aid and coaxing him back to the safety of the shore, Mr Dick got into difficulty and sadly couldn’t be revived.

The family wanted to turn the darkness of the tragedy into a positive and over the last year have become strong advocates for Surf Life Saving and water safety.

Inspired by this attitude and also by the friendship of Mr Dick’s children, the outgoing Year 12 cohort was motivated to show their support for not only the family but for the cause that they were becoming so passionate about promoting.

Also present at what was an emotional and powerful handover ceremony was Marianne Bonnay, Mr Dick’s wife, SLSNSW Deputy President Brian Wilcox who attended the scene as a Duty Officer on the day, and Hunter Surf Life Saving CEO Rhonda Scruton.

“It really was a tragedy that shook the whole school community, and we got together at the end of last year and asked ourselves how we could best help,” said Georgia O’Sullivan.

“The support from everyone, not only just at the school, has been absolutely amazing.”

Riley Lowe agreed.

“In the beginning we wanted to keep it under wraps, but when we told everyone the support was overwhelming,” he said.

“We just wanted to show the family that Warners Bay High School cared and that they are and will remain a part of our community.”

The initiative of the young leaders impressed many within the school including deputy principal Brett Carr.

“In many way schools are communities within the community and this tragedy deeply impacted on us all here. The least we could do was offer our support and work together with the family to get the message out there and educating people about beach safety is a powerful message.”

When Surf Life Saving NSW learned of the fundraising campaign a decision was made to honour the memory of the man who gave his life for his family by using the donation to purchase a surf rescue board.

“It’s been a very difficult year for our family and we couldn’t have made it without the school support or without the support of the wider community,” said Marianne Bonnay.

“This board is an incredible gift - it replaces a terrible memory with a good one. I really want to give back and respect Stephen’s memory, and if this rescue equipment saves one life it has done its job but I think it will save many more.

“It’s lovely to have a tangible memory and to hold something that will make a difference,” she said.

The rescue board now sits in the gear shed at Pacific Palms Surf Life Saving Club; the club closest to the scene of the tragic accident.

It will be ready and waiting to be used this season, and as the lifesaver powers through the surf they will be able to read the inscription:

“Donated By Warners Bay High School - In Loving Memory of Stephen Dick”

 It’s a fitting tribute for a man who above all else loved his family.


Thursday 21 September 2017