LISBON — She didn’t think twice.
Faced with a life-threatening situation last summer, eight-year-old Victoria Lombardi of Littleton jumped into action, and used her water rescue training to save her younger cousin.
For her heroics, Lombardi was awarded the American Red Cross’s Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action during a reception at Evergreen Sports Center on Tuesday.
“Victoria stepped up in an emergency and helped save a life,” said Maria Devlin, CEO of the American Red Cross N.H. & Vt., in a press release. “Even at a young age, Victoria was able to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. I am honored to present her with this special award … for using her lifesaving skills to help someone in distress.”
Last August, Lombardi and her younger cousin, Ariana Chattin, 5, were together at a family picnic in New Tripoli, Penn., when Chattin stepped onto a grassy-looking area that was actually a five-foot-deep frog pond covered in blue-green algae.
Chattin fell in. The water was over her head. She did not know how to swim.
Fortunately, Lombardi was prepared. Using skills she learned in swim class at Evergreen, she calmly got low, reached out, and pulled Chattin to safety. Only afterwards did she alert the adults nearby.
“I helped her get out,” said Lombardi, matter of factly. “I just knew what to do.”
The incident underscored the importance of learn-to-swim classes and water safety training.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1-4 and nearly 1,000 children died of drowning in 2017.
Said Lombardi’s mother, Lori, “I don’t know if she quite understands the magnitude of it, that children and adults die every year because they don’t know how to swim.”
Lombardi has been swimming for five years, competes with Evergreen’s Silver Fins team, and has also received water safety training through the Boys and Girls Club of the North Country.
She assisted her cousin using the “Reach, Throw, Don’t Go” rescue procedure that she learned in a Red Cross class last year. “Reach, Throw, Don’t Go” teaches people how to help others without putting themselves at risk.
For Evergreen aquatics director Lisa Jacobs, Lombardi’s rescue was proof the training works.
“We’re so proud of her,” said Jacobs. “All the kids are able to see her putting her skills into action, and know that you can actually save a life and prevent somebody from having a tragedy.”
Through the training, Lombardi was able to respond calmly and with purpose. In a way, it was second nature. Afterward she felt a sense of pride.
“It just made me feel good that I saved somebody’s life,” Lombardi said, adding that others should learn water safety skills to prepare themselves for similar situations, just in case. “If you see somebody in danger you should really try to save them.”
For more information or to find a learn to swim class you can visit Evergreen Sports Center Aquatics at https://www.evergreensportscenter.com/lessons