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Updated May 23, 2014 - 12:15 pm

Charity working to place free life jackets at Arizona lakes

PHOENIX — A Valley woman is on a mission to make Arizona lakes safer one life jacket at a time.

“In 2008, I lost my 21-year-old nephew, Ryan Thomas, in a drowning accident at Saguro lake,” said Shannon Liebrock. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and think about the fact that a life jacket would have saved his life.”

The Arizona State University student was with five friends the day of the accident. They were relatively close to shore. He wanted to cool off and jumped into the lake. Despite that he had been swimming since infancy, Ryan never resurfaced.

It was after the accident that Liebrock embarked on a journey to keep his memory alive. She helped establish the Ryan Thomas Foundation.

“This program has become his legacy,” she said. “We want to continue to his legacy of generosity and kindness. He really was a great kid and he’s terribly missed.”

The organization’s mission is to raise drowning awareness. Liebrock has also been working with Arizona Game and Fish to install life jacket kiosks at every state lake so any lake-goer will have the opportunity to borrow a life jacket for the day.

Initially, two kiosks will be installed at Lake Pleasant by July 4 then the goal is to expand the program.

“I think Ryan would love what we are doing,” said Liebrock.

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