A family out of Texas is hoping to repay a California man who they say helped save their 10-year-old child after she was caught in a rip current. On August 15th, ten-year-old Hayley Whiting and her family were enjoying a day at the beach on the last day of their vacation. Hayley was playing in the waves when she got caught in a riptide and was quickly being pulled deeper out to sea.
Her mother Samantha tried swimming out to save her daughter “I had her on my back, but it was slowly taking both of us down.” The two started screaming for help, which is when Kevin Cozzi, who was at the beach with his fiance, came to the rescue. “I’ve been swimming since I was three years old competitively, so I felt like I could get to them. I ran out there and as soon as I got to the mom, I knew she was struggling,” Cozzi said. Cozzi was able to reach Haylee and brought her closer to shore until a lifeguard jumped in.
After the heroic rescue, the parted ways. Months went by and Samantha only knew Cozzi’s first name and that he lived in Merced but she never stopped looking for the heroic bystander. It was only when she posted about the rescue in a local California Facebook group called Merced Neighborhood Watch that the two were reconnected within hours. Samantha set up a GoFundMe account and is now working to raise $50,000 to give Cozzi and his fiancé their dream wedding.
Cozzi and his fiancée had to postpone their wedding because of the coronavirus pandemic, so the Whitings decided to launch the GoFundMe to help them. So far, they are halfway there in just over a week. He is thankful for their fundraiser, but told ABC30, “That girl being saved was enough for me.”
Samantha and Haylee are grateful for Cozzi and plan to thank him again in person as they attend his wedding next fall. “If it wasn’t for him risking his life in such a selfless act, I would have lost not only my own life but my baby girl,” Samantha wrote on the fundraiser. “I want to raise money for Kevin and his fiancé to have their dream wedding and honeymoon… Lord knows he deserves so much more than this.” Hayley has one message for her rescuer. “Thank you so much and you were really brave to come out there,” she told KFSN. “He’s probably one of the biggest heroes I’ve ever met.” Cozzi happened to be in the right place at the right time to help the Whiting’s avoid tragedy and now their efforts along with the kindness of strangers is helping pay forward his bravery.