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

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Tinley Parents Win National Lifesaver Award

John Kocher, 708-476-2867
Dave Benjamin, GLSRP Executive Director, 708-903-0166 

Tinley Park Parents Win National Lifesaver Award

for water safety advocacy after son’s Lake Michigan drowning  

And announce Illinois Water Safety School Presentations 

GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) is proud to announce that John and Kathy Kocher of Tinley Park, IL won the National Drowning Prevention Alliance Lifesaver of the Year Award for their water safety advocacy after losing their only child, Matthew, in a 2013 Lake Michigan rip current.  The Kocher’s just returned from the conference in Pittsburgh, PA. (Amateur video of the Award Ceremony and Award Acceptance speech.)

“John and Kathy have been a true inspiration in the face of tragedy of losing Matthew,” said Dave Benjamin, GLSRP Executive Director.  “They have been unstoppable in their efforts to educate others to prevent drownings.”

The Matthew Kocher Foundation will be sponsoring 32 Great Lakes Water Safety School presentations and one public Great Lakes Water Safety presentation May 8 to 12, 2017. (List of schools below.)

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

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, “Gentle Giant” ( recalling the day Matt perished and their future commitment to honor his memory through a foundation.

Since losing Matthew they have made a commitment to help others and have not stopped.

They created the Matthew Kocher Foundation ( and work endlessly and unselfishly to help educate and promote water safety in the community to reduce and prevent loss of life.

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

  • Sponsored 170+ Great Lakes Water Safety School Presentations to over 28,000 students in Illinois
  • Awarded over $50,000+ 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

On December 17, 2016, John and Kathy received the Daughters of the American Revolution “Excellence in Community Service” award.

On March 30, 2016, John and Kathy Kocher received the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s “2016 NDPA Community Lifesaver” award for their water safety advocacy.

On April 28, 2016, John and Kathy Kocher, received the “2016 Supporter of the Year” award presented by the nonprofit, ‘Because I said I would’ for their video, “Gentle Giant”.

On April 22, 2016, John Kocher presented about the loss of his son, Matthew, during the “Story Telling” segment at the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium Conference in Grand Haven, MI

On April 21, 2015 John Kocher presented about the loss of his son, Matthew, during the “Story Telling” segment at the Great Lakes Water Safety Conference in Michigan City, IN

John and Kathy have gone above and beyond to turn their tragedy into lifesaving advocacy for drowning, a “neglected public health issue”, (In 2015 the World Health Organization reported that “Drowning continues to be a neglected public health issue that continues to happen with a high frequency around the world.”)

May 8 – Chicago, IL (7) – Richards High School, 10601 S. Central Avenue, Oak Lawn, IL 60453

 May 9 – Tinley Park, IL (3) – Prairie View Middle School, 8500 175th St, Tinley Park, IL 60487

May 9 – Frankfort, IL (1) – 4:00 p.m. – District 157C – Parents evening presentation

May 10 – Chicago, IL (7) – Marist High School, 4200 W 115th St, Chicago, IL 60655

May 11 – Palos Heights, IL (7) – Shepard High School, 13049 Ridgeland Ave, Palos Heights, IL 60463

May 12 – Blue Island, IL (7) – Eisenhower High School, 12700 Sacramento Watt Ave, Blue Island, IL 60406



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 Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Inc. (GLSRP) is about saving lives.  It is a nonprofit 501c3 corporation that is a Chapter of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA).


  1. Tracks the Great Lakes drowning statistics (536+ drownings since 2010)
  2. Performs “Great Lakes Water Safety” presentations and trainings (Over 331 in 7 of the 8 Great Lakes states since 2011)
  3. Works with family and friends of Great Lakes drowning victims to advocate water safety.
  4. Hosts Open Water Surf Lifeguard Training and First Responder In-service Training

Mission: To eradicate drownings by being the leader of Great Lakes water safety by providing training, public preparedness, and public awareness.

Vision: Everyone in the Great Lakes region, nationwide and worldwide, is knowledgeable, engaged and proactive in water safety with an emphasis on the Great Lakes region.


  1. WGN Chicago’s Very Own segment, “Man makes water safety education his life’s passion”
  2. Dave Benjamin’s drowning accident and ‘Because I said I would’ water safety promise video
  3. John & Kathy Kocher’s “Gentle Giant” ‘Because I said I would promise video.

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