KLA was founded in 2006 by Kalani Vierra and Randy Ortiz, who are lifeguard supervisors and who took on the vision of making Kauai’s Junior Lifeguard Program become one of the great youth programs on our island. They realized that in order to accomplish this they would need more funding than was available from the County of Kauai.
With the incalculable and expert assistance from banker Tom Canute, the KLA was formed and it received IRS approval as a 501 (c) (3) on 6/21/2006. It’s Mission Statement reads as follows:
The Mission of the Kauai Lifeguard Association (KLA) is to Maximize Ocean Safety in and around Kauai Waters.
To achieve this, KLA will do the following:
Establish and maintain high standards of professional and open-water lifesaving practices and techniques.
Provide for public, professional and governmental education in the field of ocean safety.
Educate, train, develop, and disseminate techniques and/or information for the:
a) Rescue of persons in distress in Kauai waters.
b) Emergency medical care treatment of persons injured in or around Kauai waters
c) Prevention of aquatic emergencies in Kauai waters.
Actively support the improvement of lifesaving practices and techniques in Kauai waters and associated humanitarian causes.
Funds and Equipment
Provide for necessary funds and equipment by means of fundraising events, government grants, foundations and private/corporate donations.
For KLA’s first few years modest donations totaling on the order of $5 – $10,000 year were solicited and received and they indeed were key to fueling the Junior Lifeguard program, which has become not only one of Kauai’s top youth programs, but it has also become nationally-recognized for its success both in competitions and in teaching our youth to become “Force Multipliers” on Kauai’s beaches.
Soon, however, it became apparent that KLA’s 501 (C) (3) status could and should be put to use in order to set up other programs that fall under the umbrella of the Mission Statement. Grants were applied for and were received, and programs such as installing rescue tube stations; beach safety displays; donating key equipment to the County Ocean Safety Division; partnering with Kapa’a Rotary and Lihue Airport and KVIC TV and Wala’au to install an ocean safety video at the airport baggage claim; developing and printing hundreds of thousands of oceans safety brochures; partnering with Pat Durkin of Aquatic Safety Management to put together an educational program entitled Water Awareness and Visitor Education (aka W.A.V.E. program); and publicizing (in various media) ocean safety as a life-and-death important issue not only for our own people but also for our visitors and indeed for the very business of the visitor industry (which is after all the lifeblood of our economy) — both via media and also via the remarkable travelling displays created by Vice President Jim Jung.
Any number of partnerships (some already alluded to) have allowed for all this, including with Wasabi Design, Rotary Clubs, The Rescue Tube Foundation, the County of Kauai, and marketing and production expert Andy Melamed. Mr. Melamed has upped the ante by putting together dramatic and large-scale fund raising campaigns and concert events, and with all this KLA has become a well-recognized and strong presence on Kauai.
Our drowning statistics haven’t shown the decline that we dream of. The 2 big reasons for this are (1) The ocean, as it has throughout human history, can turn against not only unsuspecting frolickers but also world-expert water-people, at any moment and on any day. And (2) The vast majority of visitors come to the Hawaiian Islands and to Kauai to enjoy the beaches and the ocean, and too often, and despite our educational and publicity efforts, they don’t consider it a priority to first learn about local conditions and possible hazards before heading to the beach and diving in.
Nonetheless, we have documented hundreds of people who didn’t lose their lives and hundreds of families which weren’t shattered — because of our efforts.
The goals of our Mission our challenged each and every day, and this has only served to strengthen the resolve of our KLA Board Members to honor and strive towards accomplishing our Mission.