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A potential life-saver, no charge

JAN. 3 — It was Jillian DeBenedetto’s lucky day.

The 7-year-old was chosen as the 40,000th recipient of a children’s life jacket through the Coast Guard at the opening festivities of the 101st New York National Boat Show on Dec. 29, according to a recent press release.

DeBenedetto, who is from Westfield, N.J., was fastened into her life jacket by Rear Adm. David Pekoske, assistant commandant for operations at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C. The life jackets were given to all children that day by the Coast Guard, Allstate Insurance, and The New York State Office of Parks and Recreation to raise boating safety awareness.

“Two-thirds of all fatal boating accidents, the victim died of drowning, and of those drowning nearly 90 percent of the victims were not wearing life jackets,” said Pekoske in a Coast Guard video news release. “And 29 children ages 12 and under lost their lives boating in 2006.”

Allstate Insurance representative Jeffrey Calderon also helped show children the proper way to fasten their new life jacket around themselves so they could stay safe on the water, according to the press release. Pekoske encouraged parents and attendants of the show to participate in some of the boating safety workshops that would be held during the show as it runs through Jan. 8.

“Our stats continue to show that 70 percent of reported fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not received boater safety education,” said Pekoske in the video.

Pekoske reminds boaters that the Coast Guard and United States Power Squadron offer free vessel safety checks throughout the year, and thanked the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association for their sponsorship of the children’s life jackets.

— Elizabeth Ellis