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

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Tinley Couple Nominated Lifesaver of the Year

Matthew Kocher Foundation
Kathy Kocher, Matt’s Mom, Founder & President, 708-334-2868
John Kocher, Matt’s Dad, 708-476-2867 

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Tinley Park Couple Nominated for Lifesaver of the Year 

For advocating water safety through Matthew Kocher Foundation

TINLEY PARK, IL – The Matthew Kocher Foundation (MK56) is proud to announce that its founders, John and Kathy Kocher, have been nominated for the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s (NDPA) “Lifesaver of the Year” award. They are 1 of 10 finalists in this nationwide search.

People can vote for the Lifesaver of the Year by visiting the NDPA Facebook voting page, read the nomination essays of the 10 finalists, and cast a vote. People can vote once per 24-hour period till January 16. The nominee with the most Facebook votes wins!

“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.”

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On July 27, 2013, John and Kathy lost their 15 year old son, Matthew, to a Lake Michigan rip current. Kocher was a junior camp counselor on a field trip to New Buffalo, MI.

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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.

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“I’d love nothing more than to hand over the reins to these two amazing people,” said Melissa Zirkle. “I can’t think of anybody more deserving for this award.”

Zirkle won the 2014 NDPA Lifesaver of the Year Award for her water safety advocacy after losing her son, Jermaine, 13, in a 2013 Lake Erie rip current.

“I met Kathy through the drowning support network and we immediately formed a bond. Not a bond that either of us would have chosen, but a bond that we believe our sons chose for us.”

Matthew drowned in Lake Michigan two weeks after Jermaine drowned in Lake Erie. He passed away on Jermaines birthday.

Jermaine & Melissa

“Matthew was their only child and brightest light of their world,” said Ruth Richardson. “He was a shining star.”

“Since losing him, they have made a commitment to help others and have not stopped.  They work endlessly and unselfishly to help educate and promote water safety in the community to reduce and prevent loss of life. I have closely watched the unbearable pain they live with to be turned into a vector of energy helping others!”

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
  • 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


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