Unsung Hero: He rescued rowing teammate knocked unconscious at pool party

Ryan Cleasby holding a certificate

This is Unsung Heroes, a Bryan on Scouting blog series celebrating under-reported acts of Scouting heroism. These are stories that don’t make national headlines — but should. That’s doubly true in this world that can always use more good news. Learn how to share your Unsung Heroes story at the end of the post.


It was a sunny Saturday in October. And in Florida, that means pool weather.

On Oct. 6, 2018, Ryan Cleasby and his rowing teammates were having a pool party — celebrating not just the 88-degree temperature but also the team’s hard work preparing for the upcoming fall regatta.

While Ryan played cards, other partygoers swam, socialized or showed off their front flips and backflips into the pool.

At 12:25 p.m., Ryan heard a gut-wrenching thud.

Ryan would later learn that his teammate had misjudged a backflip and struck his head on the edge of the pool. He’d later learn that the boy had a concussion and a laceration nearly three inches long.

But Ryan didn’t need any of that information just then. He already knew everything he needed to know.

He had learned it in Scouting.

“We are involved in Scouting for a reason,” Ryan says. “To gain skills and training that will help us be better citizens.”

For his instinctive bravery during a life-or-death situation, Ryan Cleasby, an Eagle Scout in Troop 314 and Venturing Crew 314 of Melbourne, Fla. (Central Florida Council), received the Medal of Merit.

Ryan Cleasby rowing
Ryan is a member of the Space Coast Crew rowing club.

No time to think

Ryan jumped into action as his teammate was being pulled out of the pool, unconscious.

Ryan positioned himself behind the victim and started applying direct pressure to the back of the victim’s bleeding head using a towel. He did this for at least 10 minutes — which felt like much longer in the moment.

As the victim began to regain consciousness, Ryan and two teammates began talking to the victim and trying to keep him calm. This continued until the paramedics arrived. Ryan made their job easier by calmly detailing what had happened before stepping aside to let the professionals work.

The injured teammate was taken to a nearby hospital. After stitches, a CAT scan and weeks of recovery, he’s fine — thanks in large part to the actions of one heroic Scout.

“I was glad I was there and had the knowledge to provide first aid and limit his injuries,” Ryan says. “We must be able to use these skills when called upon.”

Ryan Cleasby in front of U.S. Naval Academy sign
Ryan is applying to the U.S. Naval Academy.

What’s next for Ryan

Ryan, 16, is applying to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. If he ends up there, he’ll be in good company among the estimated 10% to 20% of midshipmen who are Eagle Scouts.

Ryan says the knowledge he’s learned in Scouting will be “immensely useful in the future.”

That’s true, but as his actions at the pool prove, those skills have been immensely useful already.

The proud parents

We asked Courtney and Chris Cleasby how Ryan’s heroism made them feel. As you’d expect, they were quite proud — though not that surprised.

They’ve watched Ryan show exceptional compassion toward others for years. He volunteers at Scouting service projects, tutors classmates and helps raise money for good causes in his community. In other words, Ryan does a good turn daily.

“When Ryan walked us through what had happened, and what he had done, it provided an immediate appreciation for the Scouting movement and what it does for our youth,” Chris Cleasby says. “We’re just glad that Ryan was at the party, to be able to jump into action.”

Courtney and Chris have seen Ryan grow up in Scouting — from his first meeting as a Tiger to his Eagle Scout court of honor and beyond.

Ryan’s parents say their son knew first aid so well not because he had read about it once or watched a YouTube video. He knew it because Scouting imparts skills through hands-on immersion.

And once a Scout has that skill down, they’re asked to teach it to younger Scouts, further solidifying that knowledge in the Scout’s head. They say you truly know a skill once you can teach it to others. And sure enough, Ryan had taught first aid to young Scouts in Troop 314 as a Troop Guide.

”Scouting’s skills repetition and activities making youth think on their feet allowed Ryan to know exactly what to do when the incident occurred,” Chris Cleasby says.

Helpful resources

The BSA is committed to helping young people enjoy safe and healthy lives. Here are some Health & Safety resources worth sharing:

Share your Unsung Heroes story

Stories like these brighten my day — especially because I know this kind of thing happens regularly in Scouting.

Here’s how to share the news of an Unsung Hero in your pack, troop or crew:

  1. Send an email to me with the subject line “Unsung Heroes.”
  2. Include a detailed summary of the heroic act.
  3. Include any “supporting documentation” you can. Examples include links to a story in your local newspaper, paperwork for a Scouting heroism award nomination or eyewitness accounts.
  4. Include high-res photos of the Unsung Hero.
About Bryan Wendell 3041 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.