Swimming Lap-A-Thon to benefit persons with disability

EVART — Area residents have an exciting opportunity to express their support for Steve Eastway from Evart and donate to a heartwarming cause at the same time.

On April 18, Eastway will swim a Lap-A-Thon at Bella Rose Rehabilitation and Aquatic Center in Lake City to raise funds for a cause that’s near and dear to his heart, the Joni and Friends International Disability Center Family Retreats.

Eastway was injured 42 years ago in a farm machinery accident near Marion that resulted in paralysis and life in a wheelchair.

Working with Bella Rose therapist Connie Schepers, Eastway began a program of aquatic therapy four months ago to strengthen muscles and relieve chronic pain.

An important part of the program is swimming laps using a modified back stroke; at first, he found even one or two laps to be difficult and exhausting.

Relying on the determination and positive outlook that have defined his life since the accident many years ago, he persevered and has measurably increased strength and endurance with the dramatic result that he now swims 30 to 35 laps (about one mile) after a few short months of therapy.

During the Lap-A-Thon, Eastway will attempt to break his personal best record and swim 40 or more continuous laps.

According to event coordinators Marlene Sosenko and Connie Schepers, 40 laps may be a world record. They are checking into the criteria of various organizations to verify if Eastway will indeed have the amazing achievement and honor of bringing a world record to our part of Michigan.

Eastway, who lived in Ina for many years, attended school in McBain and graduated from McBain High School. He met his wife Nora while he was a patient in a rehabilitation center where she was on the staff.

They have been married for 32 years and have two sons and a grandson. Steve and Nora currently live in Evart. They attend Northland Community Church in McBain where Steve participates in the music ministry, often singing solo.

The funds raised from the Lap-A-Thon will be donated to Joni and Friends, specifically to provide financial assistance for families to attend the Joni and Friends retreat for persons with disability and their families at Kettunen Center near Tustin July 4 - 8, 2012.

At the retreat, families find time to both relax and experience a wide range of crafts, outdoor activities and Bible study in a fully accessible camp environment. Tempting home-style meals are provided and there are opportunities for fellowship with others who understand the challenges of life with disability.

Outdoor activities include horseback riding, canoeing and kayaking, swimming, fishing, pontoon, paddleboat and rowboat rides, train and wagon rides and evening campfires.

For total relaxation, massage, foot reflexology, hair styling and manicures provide a welcome taste of pampering.

The cost for a family of four to attend the retreat is $1,185 and Eastway’s goal is to offer assistance to those who cannot afford the entire fee.

Donations are being accepted now through April 18.  There are three ways to contribute funds and help families attend the retreat at Kettunen Center.

All checks should be payable to Joni and Friends.

1. Send a check to: Joni and Friends, P. O. Box 12, Marion, MI 49665.

2. Stop at a local business and sign up to sponsor laps or write a check for your donation amount and leave it with the collection coordinator at the business.

Convenient collection sites can be found in four towns:

Cadillac: Healthy Basics (Plett Road).

Marion: Christie’s Potting Shed and Florist, DeHaan’s Country Store, Dynamic Physical Therapy, McCrimmons Farm and Feed.

Lake City: Bella Rose Rehabilitation and Aquatic Center.

McBain: Schepers and Hofstra CPA, Trendz (stylish new gift shop on Roland Street).

3. Several local churches are collection centers. Sponsor a number of laps or write a check and leave it with the coordinator.

The participating churches are: Calvin Christian Reformed Church, Covenant Life Church, First Baptist Church (Tustin), Highland Christian Reformed Church, McBain Christian Reformed Church, Northland Community Church, Rehoboth Reformed Church.

“I got the idea for the Lap-A-Thon,” said Eastway, “because God has given so much to me, I just want to give back to others.” “So I thought the Lap-A-Thon might be a way to challenge myself and bring attention to the great Joni and Friends retreats and inspire folks to donate to a cause that helps so many families have fun and relaxation together.

“I have personally attended the retreats before and found them so uplifting. We could relax, there were people there to help and everything was positive and encouraging, so I can tell people who donate that the families that benefit will have a wonderful experience. Maybe the only time during the whole year they can just have a vacation and have fun.”

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to encourage Eastway to try for the world record and contribute to a cause that will bring a welcome break and summer fun to families who need it most.

For additional information, contact Sosenko at (231) 825-2568 or Schepers at  (231) 825-2542.