AUSTIN (Nexstar) — In the wee hours of race day, Amy Cunningham had the name “Brolin” written in marker on her chest and arms, though she never met the 4-year-old boy.
Lubbock native Brolin Hardin drowned in 2015 in a backyard pool during a family vacation. Cunningham taught Brolin’s cousins in Austin area schools and swam in a relay fundraiser on Friday in honor of Brolin.
“I am swimming for Brolin‘s entire family, but really thinking about those kids who lose their cousins, and we want to keep them in our heart,” Cunningham said.
The 10K relay was hosted by Colin’s Hope, a Central Texas nonprofit that promotes drowning prevention and water safety, with a goal to stop drownings by 2023 by educating the public.
“Specifically in Texas, to date, this year, we have already lost 67 children to fatal drownings across the state, and that is in all kinds of water,” Colin’s Hope executive director Alissa Magrum said.
Becky Hardin, Brolin’s mom, said she’ll always feel the pain of losing her middle child.
“We still miss Brolin every day,” she said. “There are times like birthdays, anniversaries, back to school, things like that, where it’s a little more present and hurts a little more.”
Hardin said knowing that someone would pay tribute to her son is comforting. Fighting back tears, she said Cunningham’s gesture was a blessing.
“One of the biggest things I think parents of children who have died is for their child to be remembered, and, I just appreciate so much that she would remember a child she never knew and take the time to honor him and remember him and learn about him through our family,” she said.
The team at Colin’s Hope urged anyone who gets in the water to wear a life jacket. Anyone who rides on a boat should maintain three points of contact with the boat at all times in addition to putting a life jacket on.
“Drowning is fast, drowning is silent, and drowning is preventable, and to lose any child or any person to a preventable thing is horrible,” Magrum said.
As Cunningham crossed the finish line, some of Brolin’s Central Texas family greeted her and cheered her on.
“I am really proud,” Cunningham said. “I plan to keep swimming for Brolin and I’m really proud to just represent him.”
Her online fundraiser page totaled more than $1,500 before the relay began.
For more water safety resources, visit ColinsHope.org.