'She didn’t hesitate': 12-year-old Crestview girl prevents possible drowning in Niceville

Tony Judnich
Northwest Florida Daily News

SHALIMAR — Like a flash of sunlight on the water, 12-year-old Avonleigh Hicks quickly became a hero last Sunday by rescuing a younger girl from potentially drowning in the strong current of Turkey Creek in Niceville.

Avonleigh, of Crestview, is a homeschooled sixth-grader and is in her first year of membership in the American Heritage Girls Troop FL1517 in Shalimar.

“She’s a real shy girl and very quiet,” said the troop’s coordinator, Laura Nimmo.

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Avonleigh Hicks

Nimmo said Avonleigh was swimming with her family last Sunday at Turkey Creek Park when she noticed a girl who was about 8 years old struggling against the current.

“The girl’s brother was trying to help her with a float but the current was also taking him,” Nimmo said. “Avonleigh sprang into action, swimming after the child. She didn’t hesitate or look back. She was able to get the girl and bring her back toward the adults.”

Nimmo said the younger girl’s parents and Avonleigh’s parents confirmed the current would have taken the younger child and that Avonleigh saved her from a possible drowning. 

“She didn’t even think twice to bring this other girl to safety,” Nimmo said.

During the troop’s annual Court of Awards on Monday, Avonleigh will receive a surprise special recognition for her leadership, quick thinking and bravery from Shalimar Mayor Mark Franks and representatives from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and Ocean City-Wright Fire Department.

The ceremony will be at 6 p.m. at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 1 Meigs Drive in Shalimar.

Nimmo said Avonleigh is an Explorer scout and will join the Pioneer level this fall.

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American Heritage Girls Troop FL1517 has about 30 girls from ages 5-18 who meet twice a month and focus on community service, earning merit badges and developing leaders.

The troop program, which runs from September to May, includes activities such as placing wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers and collecting stuffed animals that are distributed by the Florida Highway Patrol to trauma victims.

Avonleigh Hicks (second from right, holding the U.S. flag) is a member of American Heritage Girls Troop FL1517 in Shalimar.

The mission statement of American Heritage Girls calls for “building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.”

To join American Heritage Girls Troop FL1517, send an email to Nimmo at nimmometalwork@gmail.com or visit the AHG Troop FL1517 page on Facebook.