Thursday, August 24, 2017

Swimming for 50 Years for Red Cross

Story and Photos by Stefani Madison/American Red Cross

It isn't every day you have the privilege of meeting someone with Karen Drake's sense of dedication
Karen Drake, 50 years of Service.
and passion for her work. Since 1967 she has been teaching, year round, water safety and life saving classes.

In 1962, Nebraska farm kids Karen and her brother would walk to school. Their path would take them over an irrigation canal, but before they were allowed to cross the canal, their mother ordered them to learn to swim in the event one of them fell into the water. Karen learned quickly, fell in love with swimming, and has been at it ever since.

Becoming a certified water safety instructor in 1967, Karen began teaching students in Westminster, Colorado. Students ranged from young children to adults, and a number of her teenage and older students went on to become certified instructors as well. In 1968, Karen moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, put down roots and has never left.

During the winter, when public schools are in session, Karen takes her young students to The Old Town Pool, where hot springs keep the water comfortably warm. There, for Physical Education classes, she teaches students to swim and to learn water safety. In the summer, she adds water safety instructor classes to her routine, certifying new instructors and re-certifying instructors who need to maintain currency in lifesaving and water safety skills.
Karen Drake (L) receives recognition plaque from
Eric Myers, Executive Director for Red Cross
of Western Colorado

This has been her vocation for an astonishing fifty years.

On August 23rd, to honor Karen's dedication, Eric Myers, Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Western Colorado, presented Karen with a lovely plaque of appreciation for her devotion and hard work. According to Eric, this was only the second fifty-year award he's had the pleasure of presenting. In addition to the plaque, Karen received a letter of thanks and congratulations from Gail McGovern, President and CEO of the American Red Cross.

When Eric asked the question we were all curious to have answered - how many lives might have been saved by life savers and water safety graduates of Karen's classes - she smiled and replied that there was simply no way of knowing. She surmised that the number could be many, and when even one life saved is precious, 'many' lives saved is momentous.

Following the brief award ceremony and a group photo of Karen with several of her graduates, she was kind enough to provide Eric with a tour of the facility and its many pools. Some pools were dedicated for children's swimming lessons, some for older adults and yet others for her water safety courses and for public enjoyment. During her tour, several of her former students congratulated her for her recognition with smiles and hugs. It was plain to see the affection and respect she has earned over the years by her hard work and dedication. When asked if she had plans for retiring, or even slowing down, she said simply, "No."

If you are interested in learning more about the Red Cross Water Safety program please visit our website at

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