Bruce Smith has gone from one extreme to another in his life. Once a firefighter, he now helps teach kids water safety in the pool.
A New Bern resident for 58 years, Bruce spent most of his life working as a firefighter, serving the community and keeping people safe for 36 years. He spent countless hours as a volunteer firefighter, primarily with the Bridgeton Fire Department, and worked for the City of New Bern Fire Department for 12 years.
After having back surgery, Bruce was forced to retire from the New Bern Fire Department in 2004. While many people might have used this as a reason to give up or stay home, Bruce used it as an opportunity to make a splash in the community.
Not being one to sit around dormant, he began volunteering for the third and fourth Grade Water Safety Program at the Twin Rivers YMCA.
“Since I’ve been retired, I’ve been looking to do things just to pass my time away,” he said. “So I started volunteering at the Y.”
Bruce’s wife, a teacher assistant at Trent Park Elementary School, got him involved in the water safety program almost seven years ago. The program encompasses third and fourth graders from public and private schools in Craven, Jones and Pamlico Counties. The goal is to acclimate kids to the water and educate them on basic water skills such as treading water, floating, keeping their heads above water and how to properly wear a life jacket.
Since he grew up in New Bern, Bruce recognizes the importance of knowing basic water safety. He believes every child in the area should become familiar with water and learn how to swim so they are prepared for any situation. Many of the young swimmers lack confidence in the beginning, but as the class progresses and they realize what they are capable of, that confidence soars.
“It’s good for the kids because we live around a lot of water, and they really need to know some water safety,” said Bruce. “And that’s the very reason I do it—because I love working with kids, and they’re a blast.”
In addition to his volunteer work at the YMCA, Bruce can also be found volunteering in local elementary schools as a proctor or chaperoning on field trips. When he is not busy volunteering, the father of three has four grandsons to keep him occupied.
Not one to brag about his accomplishments, Bruce prefers to stay behind the scenes and let his actions speak for him. Thanks to his continued effort, children in the community are learning to enjoy the water safely.
“I don’t do it for the glory,” he said. “I do it because I love it.”
The Twin Rivers YMCA Water Safety Program is always looking for volunteers. Anyone interested is encouraged to contact Josh Turner, Aquatics & Competitive Swim Director, at 252-638-8799 or email@example.com.
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