NAPLES — Brian Klepper went from volunteer to hero in a matter of seconds.
In July, Brian, 17, a volunteer at Eden Autism Services was in a pool helping children do water therapy when he noticed a child floating face down.
The child, who had a stroke, wasn’t moving and was starting to sink.
Brian jumped to action, pulling the child to the surface and calling for a lifeguard. The lifeguard helped pull the child from the pool and performed CPR until an ambulance arrived.
Brian was recognized for his heroism Monday by being named the overall winner of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s Do the Right Thing award.
“It feels great,” he said of winning the award. “I am nervous, though, too.”
Brian was recognized with nine other students during a ceremony. The program, which was adopted by then-Sheriff Don Hunter in 1998, honors students who exhibit exemplary behavior or perform acts of heroism.
“I enjoy doing this because it is a verification of what the youth in this country are about,” said Chief of Investigations Jim Williams, who presented the students with a trophy, framed award, medal and other honors. “They are an inspiration for all of us.”
The students honored were: Shawn Craig, a sixth-grader at North Naples Middle School; Victor Meza Jr., a seventh-grader at Manatee Middle School; Brian Davenport, a seventh-grader at Golden Gate Middle School; Sarah Davenport, an eighth-grader at Golden Gate Middle School; Mathew Hayes, a seventh-grader at Golden Gate Middle School; Rudy Saucedo , a freshman at Gulf Coast High School; Marshall Harbec, a junior at Lely High School; Brian Hunt, a senior at Palmetto Ridge High School; Vincent Buonpane, a senior at Gulf Coast High School; and Brian, a senior at Lorenzo Walker Technical High School.
The students received the accolade for everything from returning money that had been dropped and cleaning up canals to performing the Heimlich maneuver on a choking friend during lunch.
To receive the award, students had to be nominated by a community member or their teachers, according to Cpl. Joe Rakow, who oversees the program and is the youth relations officer at Corkscrew Elementary School. Students do not have to attend Collier County Public Schools. Private school and home school students are also eligible, Rakow said.
“When you do something nice, you should be recognized,” Rakow said. “These kids went above and beyond the call of duty.”
When Shawn, 12, returned $40 to an assistant at Pelican Marsh Elementary School who had dropped the money last spring, he didn’t know he would get an award for it.
“I just thought it was the right thing to do,” he said. “Never in a million years did I think I would get an award for giving some money back. ... I think being honest is the best thing.
When 16-year-old Rudy found what appeared to be a handgun at the back of an apartment complex, he turned it in to the office manager, who notified the Sheriff’s Office.
“When I first saw it, I thought it was a snake,” he said. “I thought I could take it home or I could give it to someone, so I gave it to the office.”
The handgun was actually a BB gun and had been used in armed bank robberies. The suspects in the robberies eventually confessed to using the gun.
“When the cops came, I was scared. I thought I was in trouble,” Rudy said. “Then they told me about Do the Right Thing and I was really happy. And I think my mom is really proud of me.”
Vincent, 18, left a note for another motorist after hitting a car at a McDonald’s last spring.
“It was the right thing to do,” he said. “I would have to leave someone stranded.”
Nomination forms and more information about the Do the Right Thing program can be found at www.colliersheriff.org. The program honors 10 students a month through April.