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'Deck the Chairs' display benefits lifeguards

Decorated lifeguard stands becoming tradition at Jacksonville Beach

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – While many people are decorating Christmas trees this time of year, organizations in Jacksonville Beach are decking out lifeguard chairs for the holidays.

Themes like snowmen, reindeer and even a gingerbread house are included in the third annual Deck The Chairs event that's a fundraiser for the American Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps.

"We just came out to the beach to look at the ocean before we head out of town and .... I've never seen lifeguard chairs decorated before," tourist Demian Lackey said. "Definitely a great idea."

And it's all for a great cause. Each chair is sponsored by a community member or organization and raises money for the Life Saving Corps

And it costs about $60,000 a year to fund the corps, and that doesn't count about 50 men and women who volunteer their time to keep the beaches safe when the paid lifeguards aren't on duty.

"It helps pay for all the training for all the lifeguards, and it also pays for insurance and other things," said Rob Emahiser, captain of Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue. "Sundays and holidays are some of the busiest days, and certainly the holidays. It's a huge asset."

They've recorded over 1,400 lifesaving rescues and about 25,000 first aid cases ranging from jellyfish stings to broken limbs.

"All the guards that do this, they all love it," Emahiser said. "Everybody has a different reason, but it's a service to the community helping other people, and it's fun. It's the best job to have."

This year's event is bigger than ever, including a light show and music at night. Visitors to the display not only help local businesses that normally wouldn't see a lot of traffic in the winter months. It also benefits the lifeguards.

"They help save a lot of lives, so whatever we can do to help them out," Lackey said.

The decked-out lifeguard stands will remain on display through January 1. The Deck The Chairs’ Shine Hope and Peace Light & Music Spectacular premieres Friday and will feature programmed music, dancing lights, and holiday light projections across the Pavilion stage at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. each Friday, Saturday and Sunday in December except Christmas.