Lifesaver of the Year

MADISON RESIDENT Melissa Zirkle is the National Drowning Prevention Alliance's Lifesaver of the Year. She will travel to Dallas to accept her award and speak about drowning prevention. Her son Jermaine, 13, (at left) drowned in Lake Erie in 2013.

MADISON TOWNSHIP — There were 1,800 votes cast in the race for the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s 4th Annual Lifesaver of the Year Award — and Madison Township mom Melissa Zirkle got 1,524 of them.

Zirkle was nominated for the award because of her work to provide water safety classes for Madison and Ashtabula students in partnership with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a mission she began after her 13-year-old son, Jermaine, drowned in Lake Erie in 2013.

Now Zirkle will travel to Dallas for the National Drowning Prevention Educational Conference in three weeks to accept her award and learn about new ways to educate people about the dangers of large bodies of water.

“The conference is very informational on many levels of drowning prevention, so I’m hoping that I come back home with lots of new ideas for drowning prevention and water safety,” she said.

Jermaine loved school and was always thinking about education and his own future, Zirkle said.

“I’m certain that Jermaine would think this is all so awesome,” she said. “He was always all for helping others and was also very excited about education and learning new things. He wanted to go to Harvard since he was about 8, he just loved learning and I think he’d be proud of me for wanting to teach others something they don’t yet learn in school.”

She also said she is honored to win the award and humbled by the “overwhelming support” she feels from the community.

“As I watched the numbers while the voting was active, it just blew me away that I had that many people supporting me. I knew I had a lot of people supporting me after Jermaine’s accident, but this just confirmed that the support hasn’t stopped. I am so blessed to have these supporters on my side. I thank them all.”

Zirkle said Jermaine is with her in everything she does.

“This is for Jermaine,” she said. “This is a token of my promise to him that his accidental drowning wouldn’t be in vain. This is just a portion of what I plan to do to honor my son. His accident, as tragic as it’s been for me and all who love him, will save many lives.”