Man saves girl from drowning, now she’s helping raise money for his dream wedding

Samantha Whiting and her daughter Hayley
Screengrab: WGAL-TV

How do you even begin to thank someone for saving your life?

For this Texas mom, she did it by helping him get the wedding of his dreams.

Samantha Whiting, her mom, and her 10-year-old daughter Hayley were enjoying their last vacation day on August 15 at a beach in Monterey, California, when the unthinkable happened.

Hayley was playing in the waves when Samantha asked her to come closer to the shore where she was sitting. As the girl attempted to swim towards the coast, a strong rip current pulled her out to the sea.

“I was thinking, ‘This is not happening, there’s no way I’m being pulled out,'” Hayley recalled. “I was really terrified.”

Samantha heard her cry out for help and swam to where she was. She managed to get Hayley on her back; however, the waves were too strong.

“I swam as hard as I could to her but underestimated the current, I had her on my back but it was slowly taking both of us down,” she said.

Hayley Whiting

Thankfully, another vacationer was nearby with his fiancée. When he heard shouts coming from the ocean, Kevin Cozzi, a competitive swimmer, immediately dove into the water to rescue them.

“I’ve been swimming since I was 3 years old competitively, so I felt like I could get to them,” he told KFSN. “I ran out there and as soon as I got to the mom, I just told her to give me her daughter because I knew she was struggling.”

He got Hayley and carried her into the shore before a lifeguard took over.

“He saved us,” Samantha said. “If it wasn’t for him coming to grab her off of me, there’s no way that we both would’ve made it.”

Amid the chaos of their near-drowning situation, the mom only managed to get their rescuer’s first name. Wanting to thank him for saving their lives, Samantha did all she could to find him.

It took a few months, but Kevin and Samantha were able to reconnect after the latter posted what happened to them in a Facebook group called Merced Neighborhood Watch. She had asked members to help her find the hero who saved them from drowning in the ocean.

Kevin Cozzi

Samantha didn’t have to wait long. Within a few hours, she was able to reach Kevin. The man later mentioned that he was forced to cancel his wedding because of the pandemic. That’s when Samantha came up with the idea of how best they can thank him.

She set up a GoFundMe page titled “A Hero Named Kevin” to raise money for him and his fiancée, Maria Buenrostro, so they can have the wedding and honeymoon of their dreams.

So far, the fundraiser has exceeded its $50,000 goal; it has now collected $51,696!

In an update made on November 2, Samantha wrote on the GoFundMe page that “Kevin and his fiancée are still so humble saying they don’t deserve this.”

“That girl being saved was enough for me, honestly,” Kevin said.

Kevin Cozzi and his fiancee

Samantha, on the other hand, believes they deserve this outpouring of support from the community.

“I feel like if I had the money to give them anything in life I would, because they saved my world, my child. My family will now have a bond with this man and his family forever, we ARE family now,” Samantha wrote in the update.

The mother-and-daughter duo is planning to attend Kevin’s wedding, which is scheduled fall of 2021.

Hayley’s message to her rescuer is simple.

“Thank you so much and you were really brave to come out there,” she told KFSN. “[He’s] probably one of the biggest heroes I’ve ever met.”

Help Kevin and Maria get the magical wedding they deserve by donating to this GoFundMe.

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