Being a Red Cross volunteer involves giving your time to a good cause. For one special volunteer in Hawaii, it has meant giving thousands of hours in order to help people stay safe in the water.
A Korean War hero, Robert “Uncle Bob” Via was recently honored as the 2012 Red Cross Oahu Volunteer of the Year for training more than 20,000 people how to swim. With such a record, one might think he started very early in life, but Via didn’t come by his skills until was in the Army.
While stationed with the Army in Japan, he realized that he didn’t really know how to breathe in the water or stroke properly, although he had surfed and swam “Hawaiian style” for years.
After mastering aquatic skills in the Army, Via became the water safety director for various military branches, the U.N. and the Red Cross. Upon retiring from the military, he became the Kaneohe District Park Pool Manager.
Via began volunteering with the Red Cross in 1951. Along the way he has taught hundreds of children to swim, and also teaches lifesaving techniques to Water Safety Instructors and lifeguards.
Via has logged more than 13,000 volunteer hours teaching Red Cross aquatic lifesaving skills. At 85 years of age, he continues to teach Red Cross swim classes and schedules quarterly lifeguard and instructor trainings.
“The first thing I try to teach kids is to not be afraid of the water; the rest will come,” says Via.
Having trained more than 20,000 people how to swim and still continuing to do so is a credit to the passion he has in saving lives.
Want to learn how to swim or teach others water safety? The Red Cross can help you do it. Read more about Swimming and Water Safety. Contact your local aquatics facility to see when Red Cross courses are offered.