Going to the beach this summer will be safer after IMB Bank Community Foundation's decision to fund Smart Signs displaying beach risks.
Illawarra's home grown bank is also providing grants to Fairy Meadow and Port Kembla Surf Life Saving Clubs for additional rescue equipment.
Ocean Live Smart Sign inventor Jackson Harrigan, 19, created his display boards that work like traffic lights to advise people of risks such as rips, sandbanks, UV exposure and sharks before they enter the water.
Mr Harrigan said the community funding allowed him to develop and donate the single and multi-warning signs to Wollongong beaches.
It also enabled him to expand his invention into an app that is accessible to all beach goers for timely information about local beach surf conditions and risks.
"I can't wait to see the new Ocean Live Smart Signs up and running on beaches around Wollongong," Mr Harrigan said.
IMB Bank chief executive Robert Ryan said Mr Harrigan's ingenuity also earned him the title of IMB Bank Community Foundation's 2020 Future Hero.
Mr Ryan said the new funding category was about recognising and supporting the next generation of leaders.
He said it was encouraging to hear inspirational stories like what Mr Harrigan was trying to do to help others.
"That is why we started Future Heroes so we could look for people under 30 who are already dedicating themselves to putting back into the community, volunteering and doing not-for-profit projects. And people thinking innovatively about how they can make a difference," he said.
"Ocean Live Smart Signs is a great one when you think about our beaches and the lives that get lost because people don't understand the surf.
"I know our lifeguards do a great job but they can't be everywhere all the time.
"And this will help because it is a great way for people going onto the beach to be aware of what the conditions are."
The IMB Bank Community Foundation is handing out $450,000 in funding for community projects.
Fairy Meadow SLSC is using its grant for a fully functioning Inflatable Rescue Boat.
Port Kembla SLSC will design and build a new rescue trailer with first aid kits, oxygen tanks and a defibrillator.
Other recipients include;
- The Illawarra Wig Library at Wollongong Hospital which supports those who have experienced hair loss due to medical conditions or treatment.
- The Strzelecki Lions Club project Cows Create Careers provides a hands-on learning experience to promote dairy industry careers and educational pathways to high school students.
- Sprouts Shellharbour Early Learning facilitates connections between preschoolers and seniors at Warrigal Care and the wider community.
- CareSouth is establishing a health hub to provide free dental, eye, and hearing care for disadvantaged families in Berkeley.
- Para Meadows School is purchasing new equipment to optimise learning experiences for special needs children.
Mr Ryan said despite COVID-19 this year's community project funding was close to the usual amount.
He said it was important to support people and organisations making a profound difference.
"This has been an extremely challenging year for everybody, and we felt it vital to continue our support for those who need it most. We are lucky enough to be able to continue that support which is more important than ever."
During the last 21 years the IMB Bank Community Foundation has donated more than $10 million to 800 community groups and projects in NSW and the ACT including more than $4 million to community groups in the Illawarra.
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