Derek Frechette has been called a fierce and tireless advocate
for legislation to make summer camps in Massachusetts safer for
young swimmers. For four years, he and state Sen. Stephen Brewer
(D-Barre), along with supporters, worked for it — and in July
2012, Christian’s Law was signed by the governor.
It was named in honor of 4-year-old Christian Frechette, who
drowned at summer camp on Cedar Lake. He and his brother, Cameron,
had arrived July 13, 2007, with their father. Christian was later
found in 3 feet of water near a dock.
His dad had brought life jackets for the boys, but was not
allowed to leave them because it was against camp policy. A staff
member told him that the facility had eight lifeguards.
The new law requires all summer camps in the state to test
swimmers to determine their ability, and to have available a Coast
Guard-approved life jacket for every at-risk swimmer. It also
states that such camps cannot prohibit a parent or guardian from
providing an approved “personal flotation device” for
the child’s use while there.
The CEF Foundation, established by Derek and Christina Frechette
in their son’s memory, will provide free life vests to public
or private camps and others who need them, said Derek, an
electrical engineer whose foundation work has become a full-time
job. “We just got our 501(C3) status, and every cent raised
will go toward life jackets, swim lessons and to help families who
have lost children.”
Life jacket manufacturer West Marine is already on board and has
donated 100 units to the cause. So far, 30 jackets have been
distributed at the lake where Christian was lost. Frechette would
like to distribute 2,000 life jackets in the area annually.
“If we could buy jackets at a discount, maybe we could give
out 100,000 nationally a year,” he said.
To help raise funds, the foundation held the Christian E.
Frechette Memorial Golf Classic last month. In March 2013, a local
Harley ride will raise more revenue. Meanwhile, the foundation also
is seeking grants.
Recently, Frechette went to Washington, D.C., to talk with
Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown about taking the life jacket project
nationwide. Frechette thinks it could grow to include city pools,
and surely if anyone can make that happen, he can.
The father of four (with another due next month) still grieves
for Christian. “I love my son more than life itself,”
he said. “I feel him [here with us]. I hope I can save
I think that’s what he would want.”