Daniel Chapman was enjoying a day at the pool with some friends when a 2-year-old girl chased a ball that landed close to the pool's edge. As she excitedly reached for it, the toddler fell headfirst into the water and quickly sank to the bottom.
Chapman, 13 at the time, doesn't consider himself a strong swimmer. But he swam across the pool, scooped her off the bottom, and brought her safely to the surface. With the girl crying but safe in her parents' arms, Chapman kind of shrugged off his lifesaving experience and went back to playing with his friends.
"My adrenaline took over," he said. "What else was I going to do?"
His quick actions at that pool in Lincoln, Neb., in August 2010 have earned him one of the Boy Scouts of America's Heroism Awards.
Ironically, Chapman -- a member of Troop 84 in Maple Grove -- had failed a required swimming test at a Boy Scout summer camp before the incident. Since the rescue, he has gained confidence and passed the test.
Chapman, now 14, is actually a versatile athlete. He was in Lincoln last year to compete in an artistic roller-skating competition, where he became a national champion for his age group. He also has won local fencing competitions.
He's humble about his accomplishments. When asked what a hero is at the Boy Scouts' awards ceremony and fundraising kickoff in St. Paul last week, he replied: the people who keep the economy going.
Chapman, of Crystal, was one of 149 Scouts nationwide who received a lifesaving Heroism Award during 2010. There also are two other Boy Scout awards for lifesaving given to a select group considered to have put themselves at great risk or who displayed unusual skills in helping somebody.
Since 1923, 3,230 Scouts have received a Heroism Award. There are currently more than 72,000 children and teens participating in Scouting through the Northern Star Council, which includes 25 counties in Minnesota and four in western Wisconsin.
Chapman said he was doubtful he would win the award because he went through a nomination process starting a year ago. The application included witness statements and a letter from Chapman. It advanced through the local district before being sent to the National Council of Boy Scouts of America.
Cool under pressure
Juliane Chapman, Daniel's mother, also at the pool in Lincoln when the toddler fell in. The girl started crying in her mother's arms, and it was obvious that her mom was scared and shaken.
"The whole thing didn't faze Danny at all," Juliane Chapman said.
She was very proud of her son, because in the past he had experienced anxiety over having to take the scout swimming test. She has taken lifesaving classes herself and knows how difficult it can be to bring a person up from the bottom of a pool.
Daniel said he "kind of used his own technique" to work his way down to the toddler. He saw her lying on the bottom, dove in and saw people at the pool's edge when he brought her up.
"I saw her open her eyes," he said. "A while later I realized I pretty much saved a life."
When he found out that he won a Heroism Award last week, he hugged his older brother, who is active in Scouts. His brother also is a renowned artistic roller skater. When he told his friends about the award, "They thought it was pretty cool," he said.
Other than saving a life, Chapman thinks he's a pretty typical teenager. In fact, at the end of the interview with the Star Tribune, he asked the reporter to friend him on Facebook.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465