Where there’s a pool, lake or river, Mark Ruiz likely has been there teaching American Red Cross water safety courses.

During his 45 years of leading Red Cross courses, Ruiz estimates he’s instructed tens of thousands of people.

And that may be a conservative guess.


Where there’s a pool, lake or river, Mark Ruiz likely has been there teaching American Red Cross water safety courses.
During his 45 years of leading Red Cross courses, Ruiz estimates he’s instructed tens of thousands of people.
And that may be a conservative guess.
Ruiz, a Tecumseh resident, has been a Red Cross volunteer since 1965, serving his friends and neighbors in Pottawatomie, Seminole and  Lincoln counties with his vast knowledge of aquatics, sailing, canoeing and everything related to water safety.
“Training people in water safety gives you a good feeling,” Ruiz said. “You can work with a kid who is scared of the water, and by the end of the week, he’s jumping off the board, swimming around and rolling on his back. That kid could have been a drowning victim, but now he’s a kid who is safe in the water.”
Ruiz became interested in Red Cross courses because of a longtime Oklahoma City volunteer named Charlie Hartshorne, who drew him to the organization’s mission. In the 1960s, St. Gregory’s University had built a new swimming pool, and Ruiz became certified as an instructor of water safety. And he’s never looked back.
Over his nearly five decades of service, Ruiz has taught swimming, lifeguarding, sailing and canoeing at numerous places in Pottawatomie, Seminole and Lincoln counties, as well as across the nation.
He’s taught courses at Oklahoma Baptist University and SGU, given presentations at Gordon Cooper Technology Center and Seminole State College, taught sailing at Lake Hefner and instructed Boy Scouts across the nation in the finer points of canoeing.
During the summers, Ruiz has conducted national aquatics schools around the country, working with other Red Cross volunteers to fulfill the organization’s mission of preparedness.
“Red Cross volunteers are good people, and they come from every walk of life,” Ruiz said.
“They all give up a couple of weeks of their summers to set up aquatics schools. They are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”
Ruiz is bilingual, so he has provided the courses in Spanish as well over the years. Ruiz’s service to the Red Cross predates CPR, but once that lifesaving skill came into play, he began teaching it as well.
Most of his volunteer hours on behalf of the Red Cross came during his 30-year career as an elementary school teacher. Now that he’s been retired a few years, Ruiz is still going strong.
“The Red Cross has done a lot for me. I just like to pay back a little with what skills I have,” Ruiz said.
“Red Cross volunteers are some of the best people I’ve ever known. I’ve been inspired by their willingness to serve others, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps.”
For information about the variety of health and safety courses offered through the Red Cross chapter in Shawnee, call 273-8800 or go online to shawnee.redcross.org.