SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - San Diego Lifeguards are organizing a fundraiser for one of their own.
Gareth Chapman, also known as “Chappy”, has taken part in dozens of rescues during his three years as a San Diego Lifeguard. However, on August 15th, he was the one who needed help after one of those rescues went awry.
"I just heard a pop in my back and I just sat on the beach for ten seconds while my body rebooted itself," said Gareth.
The injury happened at Windansea Beach. Chappy was hit by a large wave while in shallow water and as a result, he broke several vertebrae in his neck and back. Fortunately, he didn't experience any permanent damage, but the injury has made it impossible for him to work. Additionally, he is a seasonal lifeguard, so he only receives $250 a week in workman’s compensation.
"The workers compensation program takes three months that you earn and they divide it out over a year and it's just not enough to sustain," says Chappy.
For that reason, Sergeant Ed Harris with the San Diego Lifeguard Association has teamed up with others in starting a fund to help Chappy get by. They have also organized a fundraising event on September 30th at Galaxy Taco in La Jolla Shores starting at 6pm.
"Right now, we're very concerned about Gareth," says Sgt. Harris. "We’re very concerned about his ability to make rent and feed himself. So, w'ere asking for the public to help us help one of our own."
Moving forward, Harris says he would like to see benefits improve for city lifeguards. According to Harris, lifeguards receive fewer benefits than police officers and firefighters. He has been working with city council to make a change.
"We now are after presumptive coverage, which would treat us the same as police and firemen. Right now, we don't have that," says Sgt. Harris.
As for Chappy, he says he will get back to being active in about six weeks and he hopes to continue his work with the San Diego Lifeguards.
In total, there are about 200 seasonal lifeguards. In regards to the benefits issues, the Lifeguards Association says that they have presented their final offer and hope to hear something from the city council this November.
If you would like to help with the fundraising for Chappy, click here.