With the title of associate general counsel, it’s not immediately clear that Gareth Hedges has anything to do with aquatics. But through his position at the Redwoods Group an insurance provider for YMCAs, JCCs and camps he plays a vital role in the safety of many swimmers, nationwide.

Growing up in Northern New Jersey, Hedges learned to swim at the Westwood Swim Club. He became a lifeguard at 15, and continued lifeguarding as a student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he studied public policy.

It was there that he got to know the Morrisville, N.C.-based Redwoods Group, where he was hired after graduating in 2003.

His job as aquatics specialist was to assess drowning prevention for many of the company's YMCA clients. At the time, YMCAs were averaging 12 to 15 drowning deaths a year, nationally.

In 2009, Hedges earned his J.D. from Albany Law School. Today, he oversees lifeguard training and conducts a thorough investigation (usually within a day or two) anytime a client reports even the smallest incident.

The law degree opened the door to a lot of opportunities, but Hedges’ love of the water, and desire to have a career doing something that has a positive impact, keeps him in the aquatics industry.

“What keeps me motivated in aquatics and drowning prevention is that I firmly believe it’s a problem we will solve,” Hedges says.

Thanks in large part to his work, drownings at YMCA pools now are down to one or less annually, and ultimately, Hedges says he would like to be part of a greater effort. Ultimately, he hopes to help in facilitating a larger industrywide collaboration that will one day nearly end drowning deaths.

“I believe we can eradicate drownings in YMCA/JCC pools, and hopefully we can expand that out to where we can one day say, ‘No drowning deaths in guarded pools,’” he says.