Ryan Stevens is on a mission.
Ryan, a 9-year-old Cub Scout from Silverdale, wants to ensure the safety of every child who plays at a Kitsap County lake this summer.
He hopes to achieve this lofty goal by making sure there are enough loaner life jackets for every water-bound youth.
“So no kid drowns,” Ryan said. “I never want to see a kid drown or encounter myself getting drowned.”
Ryan and his father, Leonard, are working with Safe Kids Kitsap — the local coalition of a national organization that works to give parents and kids information and resources to prevent child injury.
Safe Kids Kitsap focuses on injury prevention areas like helmet use, child passenger safety and pedestrian safety.
The coalition provides youth life jackets at loan stations located at lakes around the county as one of they ways it tries to reduce water-related injury.
Loaner stations are stocked with life jacket at the beginning of the year. When Leonard and Ryan go to Island Lake, however, they often find there are very few or no life jackets.
That’s not necessarily a problem for Ryan, who usually brings his own. But he worries about the other kids.
He and his father tell the story of a time they were at the lake and another boy lost his ball out in the lake. The boy was beginning to wade out into the lake without a life jacket.
“He was headed out over his head and Ryan stopped him and went after it,” Leonard said.
Jenni Osborne, Safe Kids’ open water safety chairperson, said they have been providing loaner life jackets for several years. In 2010, they were able to add loaner stations to a number of previously unserved lakes and beaches around Kitsap County.
Osborne said they put out about 100 life jackets at the beginning of the year and end up with maybe 20. She admits the loss each year is substantial but she doesn’t believe it’s the worst outcome.
“We try not to worry about the theft, but it’s inevitable,” she said. “But if they’re still being used they’re still meeting their purpose.”
When local fire departments and volunteers check the stations each week, Osborne said they often find people have dropped off life jackets. Sometimes, even, there are more life jackets that the week before.
Still, Ryan’s goal is that no child is ever turned away due to a lack of life jackets. He has given the morning address at his school, Cottonwood Elementary, and is working with his Cub Scout Troop 4560.
Ryan and Safe Kids Kitsap accept both used life jackets in good condition and monetary donations. They can buy one life jacket for a donation of only $15.
“If he can save one kid’s life, it’s a success,” his father said.
Here Ryan piped up with more energy and slightly more ambition.
“If I can save many lives — awesome.”