PORT CHARLOTTE — Holly Ruiz’s son drowned in a pool at a friend’s birthday party when was 6.

On Saturday, Holly Ruiz honored Adrian, who was known as AJ, as she wore a button that said “Never Swim Alone.” Another button had a photo of AJ being held by Ruiz’ late husband, Anthony.

It was her first time attending a Just Against Children Drowning motorcycle run, which took about 400 motorcyclists from Port Charlotte to a quiet stop at Restlawn Cemetery and then on to Englewood, Venice and back to a Harley-Davidson shop in Port Charlotte.

Joshua and Christian DeMello are buried in Restlawn Cemetery. They are the twin sons of Just Against Children Drowning founder Paul DeMello and the reason he started the organization 12 years ago.

“I am grateful to have been a part of this year’s run, which fell on Adrian’s 3½ year ‘Angelversary,’” Holly Ruiz said. “I’m truly thankful for Adrian being honored also.”

A photo of AJ was displayed at the gathering at the Twisted Fork at the end of the run, along with those of other children who have died.

Ruiz now speaks throughout Florida about the dangers of child drowning.


“People don’t know a child can drown in less than 2 inches of water,” she said.

A concern of hers is tourists coming to Florida and renting homes or condos that don’t have to have baby gates on them to protect children from drowning.

“New homes must have the gates on pools,” she said. “But nothing’s being done about old homes. People come here on vacation and don’t realize a child can get in the pool if there’s no gate or other layer of protection and drown in minutes.”

Paul DeMello said the event raised $9,800.

“It is about awareness,” he said. “There were 98 drownings in Florida last year. I don’t want any parent to go through what myself and others experienced. Drowning prevention layers and water safety is paramount.”

DeMello incorporated the foundation in 2010 and works to help people get pool barriers, gets children swimming lessons and get adults CPR lessons.

For more information, visit justagainstchildren drowning.org or email jacdinc@gmail.com.

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