Grand Haven, MI,
08:00 AM

Tread to Live

Keeping swimmers safe from rip currents

During the summer of 2003, in the small coastal town of Grand Haven, MI, tragedy struck Vicki Cech. her son, Andrew (Andy) Burton Fox, just 17 years old, lost his life.

Andy was at the lake for a swim with friends and found himself in a rip current. While surviving a rip current is possible, Andy did not make it back to shore.

“His short days on this earth impacted so many. There were more than 1200 at his funeral. I love and miss him so much,” shared Vicki. “At Young Life camp they [the campers] went around to each person and everyone yelled out things about that Andy. Someone wrote them down and one of the things said was “loves his Mom.’ Brings tears even now.”

Although this tragedy devastated the Cech family, the loss of their son gave the family the courage and determination to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Over the last 10 years, Vicki has organized many water safety efforts. Most compelling, the Cech family lined Grand Haven’s south pier with life rings and a 911 alarm system armed with security cameras.

In an effort to prevent other senseless rip current tragedies and honor Andy’s legacy, Vicki and her family created the Beach Survival Challenge. They hope this annual event will provide participants and spectators with critical information that may one day save their lives.

First held in 2004, the event gathered 64 youth. Today, Beach Survival Challenge hosts more than 500 participants and hundreds of spectators each summer. When asked what motivated her to continue the challenge, Vicki said she’s “a mom just trying to save lives.”

Through a relationship between Vicki and State Farm, funding has been made available to distribute the rip current educational DVD, Respect the Power, across Michigan. So far, the program has donated more than 6,000 DVD’s to schools, public libraries and universities.

As summer approaches, millions of Americans will head to the water. While vacationers consider UV rays and life jackets, many do not think about rip currents. Potentially dangerous rip currents can materialize along the shoreline without warning. Knowing how to swim out of a rip current could save your life.