A volunteer lifesaver in Sidmouth has been humbled by community kindness after residents rallied round when his business was burgled.
Guy Russell discovered on Monday morning that crooks had smashed their way into a secure seafront shed belonging to Jurassic Paddle Sports and stolen a haul of kit.
Residents have responded by launching a crowdfunding campaign to boost the lifeguard service Guy provides the town completely for free in a bid to keep beachgoers safe.
“I am totally blown away and humbled by everyone’s generosity,” said the 36-year-old.
Thieves made off with wetsuits, body boards, flags, dry bags, lifejackets and a kit bag full of safety gear following the break-in.
The beach-based Jurassic Paddle Sports team double as volunteer lifeguards during their working day as a gesture of goodwill to the town.
Now a fundraising bid has been set up for residents to show their appreciation of the work done by Guy and his colleagues.
“I’m not very good at accepting money, but I absolutely give my word it will go directly to keeping people safe and happy on Sidmouth beach,” Guy told East Devon News.co.uk.
“Any funds raised will help us provide lifeguards, first-aid, help and advice.”
Guy is working with Sidmouth Lifeboat and the town and district councils on providing an official lifeguard service at Sidmouth beach – but this will not become a reality until next year.
“Currently, we are voluntarily keeping Sidmouth beach safe and providing a service because it needs one. We do it out of pride, passion and goodwill,” said Guy.
“Our first-aid kit gets used every day.”
In recent weeks, the team has rescued people in difficulty in treacherous sea conditions, dealt with broken bones, jellyfish and weaver fish stings, helped lost children, and assisted in a medical emergency.
They are now gearing up for a busy six weeks during the school holidays.
“People come to the beach and feel safe because we’re here – that’s why we do this,” said Guy.
“We have limited resources and time, but we’re here on the beach every day. As far as I’m concerned, it wouldn’t be right not to help.
“Everyone has been so kind – the most rewarding part for us is giving back to the town.”
Guy has been a Sidmouth Lifeboat crew member for 12 years and a lifeguard for two decades. He and three of his colleagues are fully-trained lifeguards and first-aiders.
He said of the break-in: “It’s very easy to get angry, upset and disheartened, but they are just material possessions. We’re still here, still operating and we’re still going to watch the beach.”
The ‘Help Jurassic Paddle Sports Keep Our Beaches Safe‘ crowdfunding bid is aiming to raise £6,000 for the lifeguard service on Sidmouth beach.
It was set up by Charlie Williams following calls for it on social media.
“The Sidmouth community just wants to show their appreciation towards all that Guy has done for the safety of the beach at Sidmouth,” said Charlie.
“Guy has said he will put any monies raised towards equipment to help him with the lifeguarding service he independently supplies.
“He is one of the most genuine people I know and a real asset to Sidmouth and its tourism.”
See the crowdfunding page here.
Read more Sidmouth news here.