Samantha Scheper did not expect to be nominated, much less win the title of National Lifeguard of the month for the NWT/Alberta branch of the Lifesaving Society for March.
She said that while she finds her work at Hay River’s aquatic centre rewarding, it generally doesn’t earn her the admiration of the people she looks out for.
“Being hated by patrons goes in the job description,” Scheper said. “So it’s great to have the recognition, I know lots of people get nominated.”
To celebrate its 50 year anniversary, the Lifesaving Society is recognizing one past or present lifeguard across Canada each month in 2014. Candidates are nominated locally and then run through a selection process by the society. Although there is no tangible reward, Scheper said the recognition by both her own pool and the national group are more than enough.
“I was surprised they picked me,” she said. “When I found out I thought ‘I’m sure there have got to be other lifeguards better than me.’”
Scheper said the way she found out was also a bit odd. The society contacted her to ask that she send a photo of herself for the congratulatory poster that would also appear on the website. She asked what she was being congratulated for and found out she was one of 12 in the country picked for the honour.
Curiously, Scheper’s lifeguarding career started when she would see the pictures of the lifeguards on the wall at the old pool as a youth and wanted to see her own up there. After going through the long and arduous process of certification, she said she now can’t turn it off.
“I’ll be on vacation and at some pool, and a whistle will blow or I’ll see a kid doing something, and I have to remind myself I’m not on duty,” she said. “You can’t just leave it behind. I’m always watching.”
Ian Frankton, director of recreation and community services for the town of Hay River, said Scheper is an asset to the team at the Don Stewart Recreation Centre and that while her newly conveyed distinction is a plus, her work has always been appreciated.
“We’re very proud to have an award winning lifeguard working here,” he said.
But for Scheper, the most rewarding part of her job has little to do with national accolades.
“The best part is teaching the kids,” she said. “When I see them get something, even when I’m not on duty and they’ll do something they learned with me, just the look on their faces when they get it is the best thing.”