Rookie lifeguard Will White and his cousin Sergio Schuler are the youngest ever recipients to receive the RSA's prestigious Anzac of the Year Award.
The pair of 12 year-olds have been honoured today for their courage and selfless commitment in the rescue of 32-year-old Vincent Shao at Bowentown Beach in Waihi last December.
Will's mum Nicole says the boys are overwhelmed and humbled by the award. "They realise what a great honour it is and they're both very proud. They understand what they did to receive the award is very fitting with the Anzac spirit," she says.
Surf Life Saving New Zealand CEO Paul Dalton congratulated the two boys on behalf of the organisation. "Will and Sergio demonstrated a great deal of courage and bravery during the rescue. When they spotted the man in difficulty with his hand raised in the air, they didn't hesitate to run into the water. Despite their size, they managed to bring him to shore while at times being dragged under themselves," he says.
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae presented the award at the Waihi Beach Memorial RSA, with the boys' family and friends, school representatives, members of the Waihi Beach Surf Life Saving Club, Police and the local RSA present.
Sir Jerry said "Will and Sergio exemplify how the Anzac spirit, which was showcased nearly a century ago at Gallipoli, is still alive and strong in even our youngest New Zealanders. These boys embody the Anzac spirit of camaraderie, compassion, courage and commitment in looking after their mates."
RSA National President Don McIver said their ability to keep
calm in a crisis was a critical factor in ensuring Mr Shao made it
ashore alive. "It's inspiring to see such a display of compassion
and courage in such young people."
Established in 2010 by the Royal New Zealand RSA, the Anzac of the Year Award recognises the spirit of Anzac evident in New Zealanders today.
It is awarded for a single act or for significant service to New Zealanders or the international community.
Nominations for the award were made by the New Zealand public with the final recipients decided by a panel including His Excellency Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae GNZM, RSA National President Lieutenant General (Retd) Don McIver CMG OBE, Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones and Sir Brian Lochore ONZ KNZM OBE.