Sebastian Duncan was an ambitious and selfless 20-year old man, who was always looking out for others. “He was a friend to everyone and a great listener,” according to his father, Tony Duncan.
Sebastian was the person that people looked to when they needed a friend to count on.
In August 2018, Sebastian and a friend paddled out from the Highland Park beach to go kayaking on Lake Michigan. After hitting unexpectedly rough waters, their kayaks capsized, and Sebastian and his friend were plunged into the quickly moving current. Sebastian managed to hang onto his oar and quickly swam to his friend to help. He realized that he was the stronger swimmer and knew they both could not stay afloat on just one oar. Sebastian chose to give up his oar for his friend and planned to follow behind, as they made their way to shore.
Eventually, Sebastian’s friend reached land, only to realize that Sebastian was no longer behind him. He began shouting and knocking on doors of nearby homes, trying to get help. A desperate search and rescue effort for Sebastian ignited the community with prayers, vigils and widespread attention. After massive search efforts, involving dozens of residents and local agencies, Sebastian was located two weeks later. He did not survive that final swim to shore. His parents will always be heartbroken by the loss of their vibrant, 20-year-old son, but say they know he did the right thing that day.
“He was not one to give up,” said Sebastian’s mother, Shai Duncan. “I know my son struggled in that water, but he wasn’t going to leave that boy behind. He gave his life, so his friend could live. I knew that was the son that I raised.”
The 2016 New Trier High School graduate was active in his school and community. He loved to play lacrosse and basketball, and in high school, he was on both the wrestling and the varsity football teams. After graduation, Sebastian thoughtfully considered the direction he wanted his life to take. He began working as a personal trainer and volunteering as a youth counselor. He also attended Northeastern University and was contemplating careers that he felt were meaningful, wanting to have a greater purpose for his life.
One of Sebastian’s greatest gifts was his ability to connect with others, no matter where they were at in life, or what they were going through. He had an innate propensity to be the person someone could lean on in trying times or celebrate with in joyous moments.
“He was easy-going, and he loved life,” Tony said. “In life, you can choose to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. He was always part of the solution.”
The Good Samaritan Award is presented to an outstanding individual(s) who courageously and selflessly responded to an unusual, significant or unexpected crisis.
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