SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KION) In January, the Pruthi family was at Cowell Ranch State Beach when their son, 12-year-old Arunay Pruthi, was caught by a sneaker wave and lost at sea while trying to save his younger brother who was also caught in the current but survived.
After months of searching as far as Santa Cruz County and North Monterey County beaches with the help of hundreds of volunteers and nearly a quarter-million dollars raised by the community, the family has called the search off. Despite their grief, the Pruthi family started the Arunay Foundation to spread awareness of dangerous beach conditions.
Thus far, the launch of the Arunay Foundation has focused on educating local children and families. The family says they hope this can reach a larger scope to educate beachgoers and those living in coastal communities. Family members say their main objectives are to educate, equip and inform.
"How do we make our first response better, whoever is at the beach, how can we equip them in the best way possible," says family member Suma Jayaram.
Even fellow classmates of Arunay have gotten on board, participating in fundraisers to raise awareness and the money needed by the family to begin outreach programs. Still, there's more they want to accomplish.
"If it really is so dangerous, if there are king tides, it should be everywhere, on weather apps, google maps, apple maps," says Tarun Pruthi, father of Arunay.
With this new foundation, Arunay's parents say they hope to come together with experts and state officials to implement changes to California beaches with more signage on the shores, constant alerts on all media platforms and even closing off beaches to the public when conditions are deemed too dangerous. The family says they believe had they been made more aware of the conditions, they would not have visited the beach the day Arunay disappeared in the water.
"We feel he was brave enough to jump in for us but we miss him," says Arunay's mother, Sharmistha Pruthi. She says Arunay was actually the strongest swimmer in their family, able to tread the waters for up to three hours.
The Pruthi family says this foundation shows its not just about teaching someone to swim, but rather a matter of making sure the public knows about the dangers waters can pose on any given day.
To find out how you can help, visit https://www.arunayfoundation.org/our-vision