Anzac award for young heroes

By Sonya Bateson

Two cousins have made history as the youngest recipients of the Anzac of the Year award for saving a man's life at Bowentown Beach.

Heroes Will White and Sergio Schuler, both 12, rescued 32-year-old Vincent Shao from drowning at Bowentown Beach in Waihi last December after Mr Shao became stuck in a rip.

The boys helped keep a distressed Mr Shao afloat in 1.5m swells and a strong undertow.

Waihi boy Will is surf lifesaving-trained and used his skills to calm the situation and worked with Mr Shao to get him to shore where he collapsed unconscious.

They were honoured for remarkable courage at a ceremony yesterday.

Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae gave each boy a framed bronze medal at Waihi Beach Memorial RSA in front of friends, family and dignitaries.

Sergio said it was a great honour to receive the award as the Anzac spirit was about comradeship, commitment, courage and compassion. He said his parents were proud, but he had not yet had time to tell his friends because he only found out about the award on Tuesday.

Sergio will be at today's Anzac Day parade in his home town, Te Aroha, and will be sitting with the mayor.

Will said without the lifesaving training, he and his cousin would not have known what to do. "He could have drowned without our teamwork, we wouldn't have made it."

He said he would probably go to the Waihi parade because it was important to remember the soldiers who did not return.

The boys' parents had tears in their eyes watching their sons being awarded their medals.

Will's mother, Nicole Clare, said rescuing Mr Shao had been a "remarkable feat". "To have such amazing recognition for what they did is just great. Helping people is just what either of them would do and to have such a fuss made about it afterwards is great for them."

Sergio's mum, Vivian Schuler, said the ceremony had been a "wow moment".

"We are very proud of the two boys to be honoured with such a prestigious award. I think the haka by the boys from Waihi College was very overwhelming for them, in a positive way."

Mrs Schuler said Will and Sergio might not yet fully grasp the magnitude of what they had been awarded but she thought they would reflect on it more as they got older and had their own children.

Sir Jerry said Will and Sergio exemplified how the Anzac spirit was still alive and strong in even our youngest New Zealanders.

Anzac of the Year

  • The Royal New Zealand RSA established the award in 2010 to recognise the Anzac spirit evident in New Zealanders today. It is awarded for a single act or for significant services to New Zealanders or the international community.

  • The award itself is a 70cm bronze statue of 1915 Gallipoli hero Private Richard Henderson and his donkey. Private Henderson has been known as an embodiment of the Anzac spirit after he brought wounded men on his donkey under heavy fire with complete disregard for his own life.

  • The public can nominate people and a panel decides the final recipients.

  • The Student Volunteer Army was last year's recipient for the work it did after the Christchurch earthquakes.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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