National Drowning Prevention Alliance
     “Lifesaver of the Year” Award 2012 & 2020
        “Community Lifesaver” Award 2016 & 2018

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Drowning Stats & Lifesaver of Year Nomination


Dave Benjamin, GLSRP Media Relations, 708-903-0166
Matthew Kocher Foundation
Kathy Kocher, Matt’s Mom, Founder & President, 708-334-2868
John Kocher, Matt’s Dad, 708-476-2867     

Matthew Kocher 0002                       

2015 Great Lakes Drowning Statistics Released as

Illinois Parents Nominated for Lifesaver of the Year

For advocating water safety in schools

GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) announces its current drowning statistics. In 2015 the GLSRP has tracked 53 Great Lakes drownings plus 2 missing.  Overall since 2010, the GLSRP has tracked 436 Great Lakes drownings (74 in 2010; 87 in 2011; 101 in 2012, 67 in 2013, 54 in 2014, and 53 plus 2 missing in 2015).

Drowning Statistics Breakdown for Lake Michigan
2015 = 23 plus 2 missing
2014 = 24
2013 = 24
2012 = 50
2011 = 44
2010 = 38

“With all the water in the Great Lakes region we should have a comprehensive water safety program in all of our schools,” said Bob Pratt GLSRP executive director.  

According to the CDC drowning is the:

  • Leading cause of accidental death for children 1-4
  • Second leading cause of accidental death for children 1-14
  • Fifth leading cause of accidental death for the nation as a whole

“When we look at safety measures as a whole, water safety gets very little funding or implementation,” said Dave Benjamin, GLSRP executive director. “In schools today there are fire drills, tornado drills, school shooter drills, and even earthquake drills in Illinois.”

“Unfortunately though, each year more school aged children will die drowning in the United States each year than in fires, tornadoes, school shooters, and earthquakes combined.”

“A water safety school curriculum is the fastest way to reach the largest audience in the shortest amount of time.  So when is America going to get it?”


Illinois Parents Nominated for Lifesaver of the Year 

For advocating water safety in schools

TINLEY PARK, IL – John and Kathy Kocher, the founders of the Matthew Kocher Foundation (MK56), have been nominated for the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s (NDPA) “Lifesaver of the Year” award. They are 1 of 6 finalists in this nationwide search.

People can vote by visiting the NDPA Facebook voting page, read the nomination essays of the finalists, and cast a vote. People can vote once per 24-hour period till January 16. The nominee with the most Facebook votes wins!

On July 27, 2013, John and Kathy lost their 15 year old son, Matthew, to a Lake Michigan rip current in New Buffalo, MI.

“We are truly honored and humbled by this nomination,” said John Kocher.  “It will provide us with more venues to spread the word about water safety and help the Foundation realize its mission.”

“Education is the key. People are amazed when you explain to them about the dangers of open water,” John added. “They, like myself, had no idea.”

“It breaks my heart knowing that Matt’s death and all the others were so senseless,” said Kathy Kocher. “As a society, we should all know the basics of water safety. Drowning is a leading cause of death in children.”

“We need to educate children, parents, and everyone about water safety and drowning prevention,” Kathy added. “Water safety education is very straightforward. It should be part of every school’s curriculum, just like fire safety.”

“No one wants to think this could happen, but it does, due to lack of education. We cannot bring our son Matthew back, but we are committed to teaching others about water safety so that no one else has to experience the devastating loss we have,” Kathy concluded.

Since Matt’s passing, through the Matthew Kocher Foundation, John and Kathy have:

  • Sponsored 50 Great Lakes Water Safety School Presentations to over 11,693 students and in the process of organizing and funding 100 more for spring 2016.
  • Awarded over $10,000 in Scholarships to benefit students who have demonstrated excellence in the classroom, in athletics, outstanding character, and leadership in the community.
  • Hosted Community Service Projects for over 600 participants (The Matt Kocher Games, Adopt-A-Road, Tinley Park Irish Parade, a Food Drive, and a Trim-A-Tree program)
  • Hosted its First Annual Matthew Kocher Memorial Golf Classic and Dinner

Gentle Giant

PROMISE VIDEO – with Because I said I would
In September 2014, John & Kathy attended the “Because I said I would” conference in Columbus, OH to advocate water safety and recorded this Promise Video recalling the day Matt perished and their future commitment to honor his memory through a foundation.


The Matthew Kocher Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides Water Safety, Scholarship, and Community Service. With the motto of “Working Together to Help Others” the Matthew Kocher Foundation originated in the hearts of Matt’s parents, John and Kathy Kocher.

The Foundation’s mission is to carry on Matt’s spirit of caring for others by offering water safety education to prevent future drownings and save lives. Matt’s parents do not want any other families to experience the anguish of going through such a preventable tragedy. The Foundation also provides scholarship awards to deserving students and provides community service opportunities to young people.

The Matthew Kocher Foundation has provided funding for 50 GLSRP “Great Lakes Water Safety School Presentations” to over 11,693 students.

The Matthew Kocher Foundation Scholarship exists to benefit students who have demonstrated excellence in the classroom, in athletics, outstanding character, and leadership in the community.

The Matthew Kocher Foundation has hosted Community Projects for over 600 participants