A group of Newport Beach residents march along the boardwalk in appreciation of Newport Beach lifeguards and Ben Carlson, who died during a rescue

A group of Newport Beach residents march along the boardwalk in appreciation of Newport Beach lifeguards and Ben Carlson, who died during a rescue (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / August 3, 2014)

About 30 people clad in red marched or biked down the Newport Beach boardwalk Saturday evening shouting to everyone they passed on the beach.

"Who do you love?" bellowed Dave DeClark. "Lifeguards," the marchers yelled back.

As they ended their mile-long walk to the Newport Pier, they encouraged others to join them.

"Come on, you guys," said Lainie Reel. "In honor of Ben Carlson."

Carlson died July 6 when he dove into heavy surf off the Balboa Peninsula to rescue a swimmer.

Saturday's demonstration capped off a fundraiser for Carlson, the first Newport Beach lifeguard lost in the line of duty, and gave marchers a chance to say thank you.

At the pier, Susie Elmore stood at the front of the pack and addressed a group of lifeguards and the Carlson family.

Ben's death, she said, made her realize not enough people were voicing their gratitude.

"Every single day we come to the beach and we use the beach, and we watch you do what you do, and we hardly even wave at you," she said. "We have all committed here that that is going to change, and we're going to say thank you every time you save our lives, which is every single day."

Elmore hugged Carlson's parents after handing over a few thousand dollars toward a scholarship fund.

"This is so cool," said Chris Carlson, Ben's father. "It's really buoyed our family to have the community come out like this."

The family, who lives in Rancho Cucamonga, has even started thinking about moving to Newport after seeing the city pour out its appreciation for Ben, Chris said.

Although he didn't know him, Kevin Dorr started choking up when he talked about being on the beach July 6 and watching lifeguards searching for Ben.

"I didn't have a beer with him ever, but I know it's important, and I know he was a great guy," Dorr said. "It's really a tough story because you never really miss somebody until they're gone."