The award is given to those who have made a significant contribution or outstanding effort to enhance or promote water safety at a local or state level, according to the Water Safety Congress website.
"To win something like this and have it at an international level is great," Cech said.
Tom O'Bryan, the area engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lake Michigan Area Office, including the one in Grand Haven, nominated Cech for the award last fall.
"She's done an excellent job of promoting water safety and beach safety in Grand Haven," he said. "Her efforts might seem to go unnoticed, but I notice them and wanted to give her that national recognition. She's very well-deserving of this award."
Cech's son, Andy Fox, got caught in a rip current at Grand Haven State Park on Sept. 3, 2003, and drowned. He was 17.
Shortly after Fox's death, Cech wanted to bring awareness of the dangers that lurk below the water's surface to the area. She is part of the Great Lakes Beach and Pier Safety Task Force and is the chairwoman of the Beach Survival Challenge, which is held annually to teach participants about beach and water safety through a variety of beach games. The eighth annual event will be held June 18.
The task force has also made additional water safety contributions, including distributing 11,000 copies of its DVD "Respect the Power" to schools throughout Michigan and the Great Lakes region, and lining the Grand Haven south pierhead and the state park beach with life rings that bear Fox's name — as well as the name of another Grand Haven teen, Daniel Reiss, who also drowned two months after Fox.
"This is all for him," Cech said of her son. "My goal all along is for nobody to go through this, so I really accept this award for him."
Cech received a phone call that she won the award a month before last week's conference, she said.
"I got all choked up," Cech said of being notified. "It's cool to win something like this, and that people are recognizing the Beach Survival Challenge and the things that we do."
Cech traveled to the summit with her daughter, Jaime Fox, and was surrounded by water safety officials — including the U.S. Coast Guard, Ottawa County Sheriff's Department and Army Corps of Engineers — all thinking about her son.
"I was a mom among all these professionals," she said. "It felt like a great honor. It was kind of emotional."