Grand Haven mother wins award over a decade after losing son to rip current

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A Grand Haven mother has made water safety along the Michigan lakeshore her mission after losing her son off the pier more than a decade ago.

Now, Vicki Cech is being honored nationally as Community Lifesaver of the Year for her efforts to make sure other parents don't lose a child to these dangerous rip currents.

Vicki says the award is meaningful to her not because she won, but because it means she's reaching people with her message, and keeping her son's name alive in the process.

Saving lives has now become Vicki's life's work after losing her son Andy Fox at just 17 years of age.

"When I hear of someone being saved, you get excited and working on it again," she said.

Andy drowned in a rip current along the Grand Haven pier in 2003--something that neither the teen, who grew up along Lake Michigan, nor his mother knew existed in the Great Lakes.

"I was shocked; I thought that should be front page news," Vicki said. "People need to know."

Since Fox's death, Vicki has brought life rings to piers along the Michigan coast, changed state law, had 9-1-1 call boxes installed in Grand Haven, and educated thousands of children in West Michigan on water safety with her Beach Survival Challenge.

"We have a waiting list every year with kids wanting to get in," she said.

Most recently, she appeared on the Steve Harvey Show in January, and was just recently announced as Lifesaver of the Year by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance.

"It's exciting because you kind of wish you didn't have these awards, because my son would be here," Vicki said.

But for her, it's not the spotlight for which she's grateful.

It's the attention drawn to her cause, as she hopes to protect other parents from the heartache her family has experienced over the years.

"I'm just a regular person," Vicki said. "I'm a mom. I'm doing what I have to to keep anyone from this pain."

The Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project is now raising money to send Vicki to accept her award in Orlando on March 19.

To learn more on how you can help, click here.

For more information on rip current awareness, click here.