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Beach Survival Challenge educates, entertains at Grand Haven State Park

Lydia Coutré • Jul 21, 2015 at 10:58 AM

“We’re actually sneaking up the information on them during the obstacle course where they’re having so much fun, I don’t think they realize they’re learning sometimes,” event organizer Vicki Cech said.

Hundreds of spectators watched as teams of six, at least two of which must be girls, competed on a field where they played beach soccer with an oversized ball, ultimate Frisbee and tug-of-war.

The challenge combined fun competition with beach and water safety education, said Cech. It honors her son, Andy Fox, who drowned in 2003 after being caught in a rip current at the state park. He was 17.

Cech said the event is “incredibly important” to her and her family. She said she doesn’t want anyone else to go through the same tragedy.

“We want kids to be able to come down here and have fun, have a great day at the beach,” she said. “And even if there’s waves, if they know what to do, they can get out of it if they get caught in a rip current. We just want to make them aware.”

Christine Clover, 40, competed for the first time this year with her team. She said she wants to be a role model to show the kids that they support the cause.

“I know it happened out of a tragedy, so I just want to thank that family for having the courage to step forward and just say you know what out of something so horrific has come something (that can) really make a difference,” Clover said.

The Adult A division winner was Lagwagon with Rob Saubaugh, Zac McCabe, Mari Haggerty, Lacey Reavis, Luke Poquette and Nick Vandersys. Steffen’s Studs placed second and Up Pup placed third.

The Adult B division winner was West Michigan Manthers with Gerrit Boone, Jeffrey Rickfelder, Jeremy Lattig, Megan Newhouse, Priscilla Vanheest and Andrew Wadaga. Second place in the division went to Hightide, while third was Unsalty Dogs.

Winners of the middle school division were the West Coast Tidal Waves with Aaron Tilton, Christian Ostrowski, Will Warmoth, Saebryn Peel, Morgan Carey and Sydney Borchers. The Grand Haven All-Stars placed second in the division, while the Amadillo Shoeshine placed third.

Susan Dalman, one of almost 200 volunteers, said learning about water safety is particularly critical to anybody who lives in Michigan.

“Anything we can do to save a life, being a mom, that’s really important,” Dalman said.

Jaime Fox, event organizer and Andy’s sister, said all money raised is recycled from year to year so they can continue the event.

“We’ve had just wonderful responses,” she said. “We have people tell us on a regular basis that it’s their favorite day of the year, and they look forward to it all year long.”

Aaron Clark, 12, said he came down to play and was able to learn some things as well.

“You can learn about the water safety, and then you can have fun with friends playing games,” Clark said.

Tribune reporter Kyle Moroney contributed to this article.

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