Many of you had met, engaged, discussed or worked with former Junior Lifeguard instructor Nick Johnson, who unexpectedly and tragically passed away at the age of 19 during a swim practice on March 24.

Johnson was a participant in the Santa Barbara Junior Lifeguard program beginning in 2004. He later worked as an instructor aide before being hired as a Junior Lifeguard instructor in 2010. He will forever be remembered for his hard work ethic, teamwork and his ability to find the best in everyone he encountered.

Whether you encountered Johnson dropping off or picking up your Junior Guards from East Beach during the summer months, or through his long-standing involvement with local aquatic swimming and water polo programs, he has been terribly missed this summer.

Weekly on Thursday evenings during the summer months, the annual Reef & Run series is hosted at East Beach. This series benefits the Santa Barbara Junior Lifeguard program and to date has donated close to $3,500 toward new equipment for program participants.

It would only seem fitting that the Santa Barbara Junior Lifeguard Program pays tribute to Johnson at this week’s Reef & Run, which is the last evening to fall within the Junior Lifeguard program schedule for 2014. This evening is dedicated to Johnson, and the designation of this memorial fund are with the blessing and full support of the Johnson family.

There are several swim options (500 meter, 1,000 meter and one-mile), but we are hoping to target the 500-meter swim to honor Johnson. We have partnered with Reef & Run to waive entry/registration fees this Thursday, but we are asking for a minimum donation of $5 to go to the Nick Johnson Memorial Fund facilitated by the Santa Barbara High School Aquatic Booster Club. All donated funds will be used for shallow-water blackout education and capital improvements after consulting with the Johnson family.

Registration for Reef & Run starts at 5:45 p.m. with all swims starting at 6:35 p.m. At 7:20 p.m., there will be a short five-minute program at East Beach Grill to remember Johnson and his connection to our local aquatic community.

To assist with any logistical issues arising from the end of the JG program at 2 p.m. and the swim for Johnson at 6:35 p.m., we will be keeping some JG instructors at the beach to provide a supervised and extended day option.

Please join us this Thursday evening

— Rich Hanna is a senior recreation supervisor for the City of Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department.