Every year in the U.S., approximately 3,700 people die from unintentional drowning. Nearly 900 of them are children and adolescents ages 0-19. Thanks to Senior Girl Scout, 14-year-old Emily Clapp, 11-month-old baby Austin is not a part of that statistic.
Emily Clapp, now 15, has been a Girl Scout for 10 years and says Girl Scouts has helped her learn to be a better person in the world. In the moments leading up to the rescue effort, Emily said there wasn’t much going through her head. “Honestly, I wasn’t really thinking about what was happening at the time. All I was focused on was getting to the dock and pool as fast as I could,” said Emily. Rather than be fearful, Emily sprinted into action without hesitation and for that reason she is the recipient of the Girl Scout Lifesaving Award.
Emily recalls the morning of June 12, 2022, when she and her father were in their backyard enjoying the pool. Emily’s father noticed a child across the way wandering around his family pool. “I asked my dad what he was looking at and he made me aware of what was happening across the canal,” said Emily. “We live along a deep-water canal where there are houses along both sides so the back of everyone’s house and yard is visible to their neighbors and passerbys.” At the time, the child wandered out of the back door of his home alone and onto the pool deck. Emily and her father knew to keep watch of the incident and Emily sprung into action once the unthinkable happened. “The child was drawn to the water, bent down to feel it, and fell into the pool,” said Emily. Emily climbed out of her pool, rushed down the steps of their pool deck to the dock, ran across the dock and down to the floating dock, and dove into the canal.
A neighbor witnessed Emily’s courageous act of swimming approximately 50 feet to reach the child. “I walked to the edge of my dock and saw Emily swimming and within a few strokes, she threw herself up on the floating dock, sprinted up to the pool, and jumped in,” said eyewitness Nicole Wilson. “In seconds she came to the surface with the baby.” Upon Emily jumping into the pool, baby Austin was floating near the surface and was face up, but still inhaling water. After exiting the pool, the child was coughing and the nanny came out of the house surprised and confused, but quickly realized the incident that just occurred. The parents were called and Austin was taken to Wolfson Children’s Hospital where he was kept overnight for observation and thankfully suffered no harm. Neighbor Nicole Wilson added, “I believe that if Emily had not been in that exact moment and did exactly everything perfectly, the baby would have died. She saved that child’s life that day … zero arguments on that. It was amazing!”
In the moments after the incident, Emily says that she was in shock that she just saved someone’s life. “I am really proud of myself for what I did and I’m glad that the little boy and his parents will continue to make memories for themselves as a family,” she said. “Emily will forever have a place in my heart and one day I will tell my son how Emily Clapp saved his life,” said mother of baby Austin, Stacy Leb. Because of Emily’s bravery and lifesaving act, Stacy nominated her for the Girl Scout Lifesaving Award. Emily shared how the event made her realize that you cannot take anything for granted and gave some advice on water safety. “There are so many things in life that people don’t realize can be taken away in minutes or even seconds. Don’t pass up an opportunity because you are scared or mad, leave your life with no regrets,” she said. Emily added, “Be prepared for things before they happen. If you’re moving into a house that already has a pool and you have young children or if you are expecting a baby, get pool safety essentials before you move or as soon as the baby is born and before he or she learns to walk. Don’t wait!”
Girl Scouts of Gateway Council’s CEO, Wendy Dordel, couldn’t be prouder of the courageousness that Emily has displayed. “Emily’s quick action, clear headedness, and obvious concern for others exemplifies the Girl Scout spirit; she is a true hero, and it is our honor to present her with this very special award”, said Wendy. Congratulations Emily Clapp on receiving the 2023 Girl Scout Lifesaving Award and thank you for making the world a better place! Way to go, Emily!