LAWRENCE, Kan. — The newest lifesaver in Lawrence is making waves at the Outdoor Aquatics Center. In a summer job filled by youthful lifeguards, this one stands out.
When a lifeguard shortage in Lawrence threatened summer fun, 64-year-old Marilyn Hull came out of retirement to become a first-time lifeguard.
“For me, it might be more fun than stacking cans at the food bank,” Hull said.
Hull’s decision to join the lifeguard team will help keep the outdoor aquatics center open during a lifeguard shortage. She couldn’t stand the thought of kids missing pool time two summers in a row.
“I just thought it was really sad, especially for kids that weren’t able to swim last year, might have another year when their opportunities might be limited” Hull said.
Hull needed several hours of training to gain her lifeguard certification.
“Every lifeguard counts,” aquatics supervisor Lori Madaus said.
Madaus was looking for a hundred lifeguards ahead of summer. She said the newbies now outnumber the seasoned swimmers, so it’s nice to have Hull on staff.
“It is very inspiring to know that lifeguarding can be of all ages, it can be a lifelong opportunity,” Madaus said.
Lawrence still doesn’t have enough lifeguards, and has about 45 open positions right now.
The indoor pool closes in the afternoon so they can staff the outdoor aquatics center, where they would normally see 1,500 people a day.
Madaus said it’s a blessing to be open at all after gates stayed closed in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“Last year, it was really tough because the outdoor pool is summer,” Madaus said.
Hull remembers, the pool was the place to be as a kid. The water is also used for physical therapy — that’s why she jumped in to help.
“A lot more people are probably capable of doing things like this than they really give themselves credit for,” Hull said. “I’m not a huge ex-swim jock, I’m just somebody who loves to swim. If I can be out here, helping keep the pool open, and help keep people safe, then I’m happy.”
Hull believes we often underestimate ourselves and bodies.
“Don’t let your age, or your shape, or your preconceived notions about how much your time is worth limit what you can do,” Hull urged.
“This is a big need in our community, it’s something that not only I, but a lot of other people in our community could step in and do. And you really get engaged and contribute, and it’s fun.”
Hull said she plans to stay on the schedule through summer and may come back next year.
She is a mom and grandma and loves being able to watch the kids at the pool have a lot of “firsts” with water.
“The most rewarding thing is seeing kids that are learning to swim, and they’re going off the diving board for the first time, or they’re jumping off the side for the first time,” Hull beamed.
“And you just see those moments of pride, and they’re just priceless.”