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In just about one month, I’ll be stroking my way through the calm waters of the Hiland Chain of Lakes, joining approximately 200 other water lovers for the 2015 Swim to the Moon. Presented by Epic Races, Swim to the Moon is one of Michigan’s premier open-water swims, offering participants the option of swimming a half-mile, 1.2-mile, 5K, or 10K course. More importantly (for me, at least), Swim to the Moon is a fundraiser for North Star Reach, a camp for children with serious health challenges.
I first heard about North Star Reach several years ago at the University of Michigan Pediatric Congenital Heart Patient Reunion, held every other year at Wiard’s Orchards in Ypsilanti. My youngest son, Bryce, is one of the U of M’s heart patients and, coupled with multiple other chronic conditions, was unable to participate in preschool, much less the summer camp his older siblings attended. We added our names to the contact list and began to look forward to the opening of North Star Reach.
In 2013, I decided to participate in Swim to the Moon’s 1.2-mile event, along with my friend Patrick. Both of us had swum competitively in our youth, Patrick in high school and myself in elementary school. Decades later, we were eager to see how our old sport stacked up. Imagine my delight to find out that North Star Reach was Swim to the Moon’s charity partner! I signed up to become a fundraiser, had a surprisingly good swim, and raised several hundred dollars for North Star Reach.
Swim to the Moon and fundraising for North Star Reach has now become an annual tradition for me. Last year, I swam the 5K to raise funds for North Star Reach. Bryce and I attended the grand opening celebration for camp at the Polo Fields in Ann Arbor and got to meet several of the campers who’ve benefited so much from attending Camp on the Move (camp at other SeriousFun camps in the US; in 2016, North Star Reach will open its doors here in Michigan). We’ve had fun seeing the photos of the facilities being constructed on the grounds of North Star Reach.
I’m very excited to see all the buildings first hand as I once again tackle the 5K on August 23. The starting line is on the shores of Patterson Lake, the waterfront for North Star Reach. I’ve been training regularly, alternating between 50- and 100-yard sprint workouts and long swims in the pool (swam a 5K this past Saturday) to open-water swims, with and without wet suit, at Silver Lake in Pinckney Rec Area. Bryce has been my chief cheerleader; due to a coordination disorder, he cannot swim, so I’ll be swimming for him, to the best of my ability. While I hope to beat last year’s finish time of exactly 2 hours, the swim is not about awards and accolades. It’s about raising funds so that kids like Bryce can experience the summer of a lifetime at North Star Reach.
To learn more about the Swim to the Moon race, visit their website.
To make a donation to Ana’s fundraiser for camp and help her reach her fundraising goal of $1,000, go to https://runsignup.com/anahotaling.
The CEO and Founder of North Star Reach, Doug Armstrong is swimming the 5K for the first time. You can support his efforts to raise $5,000 for his 5K at https://runsignup.com/
Blog post by Ana Hotaling
“North Star Reach tugs on my heart strings,” shares Christeen Colter, one of our long-time volunteers. Today we share with you Christeen’s story and why she has chosen to give her time to North Star Reach for the past four years.
How did you become involved in North Star Reach?
A dear friend of mine, Jessica Doletzky, has been working with SeriousFun Camps for several years. She and I were chatting one afternoon about her experiences with all the amazing kids at camp, and I completely fell in love with North Star Reach’s mission and vision.
There are a lot of nonprofits out there, why do you continue to support camp?
I do a lot of work with other nonprofits at my job, but North Star Reach is the only one I currently donate my personal time to. North Star Reach tugs on my heart strings.
What kinds of projects and events do you volunteer for?
I am on the call list to do whatever, whenever! Thus far, I primarily help out at fundraising events like golf outings. It is my personal mission to continue to expand my work with North Star Reach and hopefully volunteer at camp one day to see the dream of this amazing camp a reality!
What has been the best part of volunteering?
The best part is meeting the campers and their families. Each camper that I have had the blessing to meet has been amazing. They face challenges no child should ever have to, yet still have such great spirits, are quick witted and have fun personalities. When commenting on their charismatic personalities, their parents often indicate that it was their child’s experience at camp that brought it out in them! Hearing this made my heart swell, and I had to fight back the tears! It’s such an amazing transformation to see first-hand.
What advice or encouragement do you have for people considering volunteering?
The experiences are truly priceless and each time I get to work with North Star Reach, I leave feeling energized and blessed to be a part of such an amazing group of people. It’s an indescribable feeling being able to work together to give children with serious health challenges an opportunity to be kids and forget about all the troubles of their sicknesses.
What do you love most about North Star Reach and its mission?
What’s not to love about the simplicity of it all? The mission is made up of eight basic values that uphold the guidelines for an inspiring and enjoyable camp experience. If we all practiced the simple ideas of North Star Reach’s values in our day to day life, just think of what a pleasant place the world would be! I love the objective “gratitude is the best attitude.” It is said that “gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” Practice having the attitude of gratitude! I promise it will be a life-changing experience just like North Star Reach is for so many deserving kids and their families.
Christeen and all of volunteers who are a part of our North Star Reach family are helping make our camp dreams come true. Thank you! Want to share your time and talent with North Star Reach? Visit our volunteer page to get involved!