Beach Survival Challenge promotes water safety

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:41 PM

“We ended up with 83 teams that participated – the most we’ve ever had,” said organizer Jaime Spencer. “The weather was perfect and we had a record turnout.”

The 4-6-person teams made of middle school students, high school students or adults, participated in four events designed to help raise awareness of rip currents and beach, pier and water safety.

Sand flew as teams raced around small courts and kicked a large rubber ball in Beach Soccer. Ultimate Frisbee had the look of a basketball game and teams ran to a cool Lake Michigan to wash off after being dragged through the sand in the Tug-O-War.

The culminating event was the Obstacle Course where teammates crawled under netting, dragged a dummy, threw life rings, constructed a puzzle pulled out of a treasure chest, answered rip current questions and raced to fill a bucket of water using sponges in a race against time.

“It’s a lot of fun. I like it,” said Dazed and Confused team member Joey Simonelli of Muskegon.

He and fellow teammate, Alexys Riksen of Grand Haven, bent over to catch their breath after racing down the beach to Lake Michigan and back to fill a bucket with water gathered in their sponges.

The Water Buffalos took first place in the high school/adult category. The team consisted of Derek Braak, Isaac Braak, Amanda Merz, Remi French, Johnny Miller and Bailey Gonzales.

Second place went to the Wave Runners, while The Salty Dogs earned third place.

The Super Six won the middle school category. Teammates were Joseph Walsh, Trevor Kalis, Anna Strom, Ashlyn Hall, Lindsey Vandermeer and Kyle Bush.

Second place went to the Crazy Crabs and third place was taken by Fast and Furious.

“We had an amazing day and things ran smoothly,” Spencer said.

“We truly could not pull off an event of this scale each year without the tremendous support we receive from local businesses and volunteers,” she said. “I really feel blessed to live in such an amazing community that no only supported us through our loss, but also embraced our cause as we continue our efforts to raise beach and pier safety awareness.”

Spencer is the sister of Andy Fox, who drowned in a rip current in Lake Michigan in 2003.

Their mother, Vicki Cech, started the competition a month after his death.

Cech said local fundraising efforts will go to change a beach call phone to a cellular unit, and to install additional call boxes in two other locations at the State Park and City Beach.

For more information, go online to www.respectthepower.org.

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