Eight lifeguards worked the late shift Friday to help keep children safe as their families celebrated the Fourth of July.
The American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps said it was the first time lifeguards were scheduled to work into the evening with a sole mission of helping children who get separated from their parents on the beach reunite with their families.
Lifeguards said helping lost children is one of their biggest jobs anytime the beaches get crowded. On a busy holiday weekend, as many as 35 children need help finding their families.
Starting last weekend, they began giving out bracelets to kids with their parents phone number, as well as that of the lifeguard station (904-249-9141). They also patrol the beach on ATVs, doing everything they can to help keep kids and parents together.
"Of course that's a very scary thing," said Deepte, who brought her daughter to the beach Friday night to watch fireworks. "I'm keeping an eye over her because I don't want anything bad to happen. But it's a scary thought."
In a collaboration with the city and the police department, Jacksonville Beach is employing the eight lifeguards Friday night. They continued patrolling the beach until midnight, saying they helped four or five families with lost children.
The lifeguards say prevention is key.
"I mean, it is one of our jobs to help with that. But if we can just prevent one incident, then it can make our job much, much better," said Capt. Jelisse Marrero of the American Red Cross.
Parents we spoke with couldn't be happier knowing there are extra sets of eyes.
"I'm really grateful for that, because you have a second level of security. If you miss something, you can still run to those people, they will take care of it. I'm really grateful," said Deepte.