After hearing the tragic story of a Nassau County boating accident that left three children dead on July 4, 2012, 14-year-old Sal DiBenedetto said he was inspired to promote boating safety in his own community.
The Westhampton Beach High School freshman explained this week that he has spent months planning the construction of a life jacket loaner station at the Westhampton Beach Village Marina, a project that should earn him the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest ranking a Boy Scout can attain.
On Sunday, he explained that his project also falls in line with the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared.”
“If you’re not wearing a life jacket on the water, then you’re not prepared,” Sal said.
Sal hopes to have 10 life jackets, five for adults and five for children, available at the village marina for use on an honor system basis at the start of boating season in April.
He explained that Sea Tow, the marine assistance organization based in Southold, donated the life jackets, though he needs to raise about $1,000 to cover the costs of the materials needed to build the actual station so that the flotation devices can be stored and protected from the elements.
In addition, he has coordinated a boating safety course that will be open to anyone above the age of 10, with a maximum capacity of 35 people, at Westhampton Beach Village Hall. The classes will be offered on Tuesday, February 25, and Thursday, February 27, from 6 to 10 p.m. both evenings. Anyone wishing to participate is asked to give a $30 suggested donation, plus an additional $10 fee for participants over the age of 18 who wish to receive a completion card that is required for anyone operating a boat in Suffolk County.
Those wishing to register can call Patricia DiBenedetto, Sal’s mother and a Westhampton Beach Village trustee, at (631) 288-1871. Participants must attend both dates in order to complete the eight-hour course, she noted.
Sal, one of the original five members of Troop 62 in Westhampton, said the course will help teach participants about the rules of the water, while also raising money for the life jacket station. “It will teach them to be safe on the water,” he said.
The Scout, who also competes in wrestling, football and lacrosse, and is a member of the Westhampton Beach Junior Fire Department, said he has enjoyed the project this far, and is looking forward to seeing his efforts pay off this spring.
Ms. DiBenedetto explained that as an Eagle Scout candidate, Sal has to act as the leader of the project while also involving his friends and fellow Scouts, who will help build the station. He is also responsible for making sure that EMS personnel are on site during the construction in case of an emergency.
“It’s a really big deal,” she said, noting that a small percentage of Boy Scouts attain the rank of Eagle Scout. “It’s a big accomplishment in a young man’s life.”