Lifeguard blinded by unseen prankster, God arranges forgiveness 15 years later


By Mark Ellis

Dale Ghere (in red trunks) lifeguarding at St. Ann's Beach
Dale Ghere (in red trunks) lifeguarding at St. Ann’s Beach

As a 19-year-old lifeguard in Laguna Beach, California he was living the lifestyle many only dream about.

“In the beginning, everything was a new adventure that reminded me of stories I had read as young kid,” says Dale Ghere. In his free time he dove for abalones, lobsters, clams and halibut. He also pushed beyond his comfort zone with night dives, swimming through blowholes, and making rock rescues.

By the middle of his first summer as a lifeguard stationed at St. Ann’s Street, he was so excited about the beach he decided he would drop out of college and go to Hawaii to surf for several months. Then he would return home, buy a car, and hit the road to spend a year on the beach.

Then the unexpected happened. “I saw a small kid standing to the left of my lifeguard tower just fall over like he had been hit by a freight train,” Dale recounts. “As I turned to look at him I was suddenly hit on the side of the head so hard I was knocked out of my tower and into the sand.”

Hit by a water balloon with surprising force, he fell eight feet to the sand, unconscious.

When Dale woke up he realized he was blind in his left eye. Locals at the beach called for help and he was transported to a police station and then to the hospital.

“While at the police station I can remember looking in the mirror on the cigarette machine. I could see the blood pooled in front of the pupil. As I twisted my head from side to side I could watch the blood move back and forth with my right eye. I was really scared,” he recalls.

When he arrived to the hospital the doctor wrapped his eyes and told him to hold his head still.

Then Dale got some jolting news. “He said there was nothing that could be done medically to save the eye. The only hope was that if I held still for two weeks then the blood might be reabsorbed by my own system and my vision would return. If in two weeks my vision had not returned I would have permanent eye damage from the water balloon.”

But a Great Physician bestowed healing mercies to Dale. “As it turned out the eye was healed, the culprits were found, and I was given the wages I had not been able to earn while in the hospital. I was back on the beach before the end of summer and happy to be there. I did go to Hawaii that winter and learned that I really liked big surf.”

Fifteen years after the water balloon incident, Dale and his wife Marilyn were in a Bible study in South Laguna and the leader was discussing the topic of forgiveness.

“He suggested that we each think of someone we had offended and go to him or her, apologize, and ask to be forgiven.”

Dale began to probe his mind for someone he might have offended in the past.

Then something astonishing happened. A young mom in the Bible study said it would not be possible because she didn’t know the person she offended.

“What do you mean by that?” the leader of the group asked.

“When I was a little girl I went with some older boys to throw water balloons off the cliff at tourists on the beach. We went to the end of the streets like Brooks Street and Anita Street. When we got to St. Ann’s Street one of the balloons hit the lifeguard and he really got hurt,” she said.

“All of the others were blamed for his injury; no one told the police I was there. They were all punished, but not me. It was my balloon that hit him. I know because I watched it hit him in the head. I was so scared I never told anyone.”

At the end of her story Dale turned to her, looked her in the eyes, and said very simply, “You are forgiven.”

A quizzical look came over her face. “That is nice for you to say, but I need to say it to him.”

“You just did,” he replied. “I am that lifeguard.”

She began to weep as she realized the enormity of God’s special provision for this divinely appointed reconciliation. “That simple act of forgiveness put an end to years of torment for her and started a long and lasting friendship between us,” Dale says.

“Today you too can ask for forgiveness and begin a long and lasting relationship with Jesus Christ. Forgiveness gives us a new beginning and hope for the future.”


  1. Yet another great report of God’s goodness, Mark. So encouraging and again confirming that God remains in charge, even when we’re wondering why, what, who! Forgiveness remains the center of the Christian good news message – both from God and from ourselves towards everyone who has hurt us in some – indeed any – way. May you and Sally have a great Christmas break, good friend, celebrating the real reason for the season. Blessings Robert and Maureen McQuillan.

  2. I wish the person who threw the balloon that caused my blindness would step forward. It happened at a La Palma Hospital picnic in the park next to the hospital. August 29, 2003, after lunch water balloons were thrown. Setting at a bench I was hit, had three surgeries. The eye could not be repaired. I never saw who threw the balloon. I have forgiven the water balloon thrower. Step forward for healing power and peace of forgiveness.

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