CSUF Entrepreneurship Alumnus Turns Tragedy into Something Magical

Candace and Brayv

Candace and Brayv

Turning tragedy into something beyond sadness is a hard feat to accomplish, but that’s exactly what Cal State Fullerton graduate, Candace Thome-Hopson, did. After the 2011 drowning death of her younger brother, Brayv, Candace used her grief to start the Swim Brayv Foundation.

Swim Brayv is a non-profit organization that was created to raise awareness for drowning prevention. Each event lays out steps to prevent drowning accidents as well  as teaches water safety to its participants. The idea for the organization came to Candace shortly after Brayv’s passing as she was going through her grieving process which consisted of studying drowning statistics. During that time Candace wasn’t sure if her idea to educate others on water safety would ever come to life, and she wasn’t sure if she had the emotional strength to put it all together.

But after finishing college and with the support of family and friends, she prevailed.

Swim Brayv Team

Swim Brayv Team

Every Swim Brayv event includes professionally trained mer-models and cause ambassadors. “Our volunteers are trained in water safety, brand ambassadorship, and drowning prevention advocacy,” says Candace. Volunteers speak to families about water safety and pass out advocacy cards to the public that have the acronym B.R.A.Y.V.

The public is asked to memorize the acronym. They are then asked to hold onto the card, and when the time is right pass it onto another person so they too can share in the message.

The acronym B.R.A.Y.V. is five tips to be safe around the water and prevent further drowning deaths.

B – be aware…

Save a life by being more aware of your surroundings when near water. Things to Know: who can swim well vs. who cannot, where flotation devices are kept, and the water depth/temp etc.

R – rest…

Without rest injury or drowning is more likely to occur. Swimming is a life-saving skill 1st, a sport 2nd, & lastly a fun play activity. Be sure to not overexert energy; rest when needed.

A – act fast…

If you see someone struggling or hurt in water (or if a drowning has occurred), act fast to save a life. Remain calm and help them! When needed call 911 and begin performing CPR.

Y – you can help…

Advocating – publicly standing up for water safety – can help lower drowning statistics over time. Take the Swim B.R.A.Y.V. Pledge and help us advocate.

V – victims of drowning didn’t expect it…Prepare yourself!

Proactively prepare yourself/loved ones to be around water; Drowning can happen to anyone. Take swimming lessons, become CPR certified, and always have a water-watcher present.

As recognized by health and safety organizations, drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury and death worldwide for all ages. In the United States of America: drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury and death in children aged 1–14 years; it is The Leading Cause of unintentional injury and death for kids under 5 years old in the US. More specifically in our home state of California, the drowning rate for children 14 and under is higher than the national average. Making drowning a much higher risk in CA for kids under 15 years of age. These facts, along with her brother’s death is what pushed Candace forward in launching the Swim Brayv Foundation.

Swim Brayv mer-models talking with child about water safety

Swim Brayv mer-models talking with child about water safety

Candace is a Cal State Fullerton graduate with a degree in Entrepreneurship. She was able to take what she learned as a student and put those lessons, coupled with her hard work and passion, to create such a memorable organization. Candace was able to take what she learned at CSUF in order to help her grow her organization.

I was able to sit down with Candace after one of her events, in Garden Grove, CA, and discuss how she believed her education has helped her grow and where she wants to take Swim Brayv in the future. “I learned how to gather primary research and because of that I know how to go around talking to people, and do my surveys to a useful extent,” said Candace. She went on to explain that being able to do her own research helps her build her knowledge and her organization, and lead Swim Brayv in a positive direction.  “If what we’re saying isn’t helpful, if it’s not impacting… we need know so we can change that.”

Candace said that they were on a 5-year plan and in the end they would expand to other states as well as internationally. “After we dominate the United States in the next three years, we do have an international plan, a five year plan to attend events [globally] and start building partners overseas, so we can make a global difference.”  Swim Brayv already has cause ambassadors in several different states that are ready to take up the banner to spread the message.

Swim Brayv currently has 70 plus volunteers and is looking for interns for their spring/summer events. Intern positions will include, online/visual marketing, event operations and fundraising. If you would like to apply to become an intern for Swim Brayv please contact the Swim Brayv Foundation through their website https://swimbrayv.org/


Teaching children about water safety

Teaching children about water safety


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