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Swim to the Moon: Support Us on August 21, 2016

This Sunday, along the shores of Lake Patterson, where just weeks ago campers were catching—and kissing—smallmouth bass, northern pike, and all kinds of cool-water fish, North Star Reach CEO Doug Armstrong and other “Swim to the Moon” competitors will dash into the waters and begin a long-distance swim.

The annual open-water competition is presented by Epic Races. The event, which features four races–half mile, 1.2 mile, 5K, and 10K–raises funds for North Star Reach and supports our efforts to send children with medical challenges from across Michigan and the Great Lakes Region to our summer camp programs, free of charge. This year, during our inaugural camp season, we completed three weeklong camp sessions, serving more than 200 children. Events like Swim to the Moon, and your generous donations, will help to make life-changing, cost-free camp experiences possible for hundreds of children and their families for many more summers to come.

Doug after last year’s 5K open-water swim, with his son Jackson

Doug after last year’s 5K open-water swim, with his son Jackson.

More than 400 swimmers will compete in Swim to the Moon this year. For the 5K event, Doug and other swimmers will leave the beach at North Star Reach and head south and east (passing five lakes along the way) until they cross the finish line at Halfmoon Lake Beach in the Pinkney Recreation Area. The other races start and finish at Halfmoon Lake, with the 10K swimmers going all the way to the North Star Reach beach, then turning around and heading back to the race start. Following the race, former University of Michigan swimmer and Olympian Chris Thompson (bronze medalist in the 1,500-meter freestyle at the 2000 Summer Olympics) will lead a swim clinic at 2 p.m. for all race participants.

For more information about Swim to the Moon, including start times and directions, visit the event page. A team of North Star Reach supporters will also be on hand (on the shores and in kayaks along the route) to assist with the event and cheer on Doug and the other swimmers.

There’s still time to volunteer! If you’d like to help, please visit the signup page today. And we’d love to have you show your support for Doug—and for North Star Reach—by making a pledge on his donation page.

Thank you! We hope to see you lakeside this Sunday.


30 Chicago-Area Children Coming to North Star Reach

With the help of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois (SCDAI), 30 Chicago-area children living daily with this genetic and chronic disease will arrive at North Star Reach today and spend a week at camp.

Until this year, the SCDAI raised roughly $50,000 to send Chicago-area children with sickle cell disease to a camp in Central Illinois. When it became clear that the non-profit would not be able to raise those funds for 2016, SCDAI’s executive director TaLana Hughes said she learned about North Star Reach. Along with other representatives from SCDAI, Hughes evaluated the camp last month during a site visit.

“The medical building and team are phenomenal,” said Hughes, who is also the mother of a daughter who will attend camp. “In the past, we had to bring our own medical specialists. But the physicians and nurses at North Star Reach have the knowledge and experience to take care of our sickle cell kids. They also have a level of empathy and compassion that really impressed us.”

North Star Reach’s health center is considered among the finest of its kind in the country. Many other facility amenities will ideally suit the campers with sickle cell disease. Because these children are highly sensitive to extreme temperatures, they will benefit from the climate controlled buildings, including the camper cabins. Next summer, the camp will house two heated swimming pools and a warming hut.

“By serving kids from Chicago and urban areas, we’re getting back to our roots,” said Dr. “Skip” Walton, the camp’s medical director, referring to North Star Reach’s history as a former University of Michigan’s Fresh Air Camp, which began in the 1920s with the aim of providing urban youths an opportunity to spend time in nature and learn outdoor skills. “These children will have the opportunity to be out in this beautiful environment and to just be kids. My medical team and I are here to support them if they need care, but our goal is to keep them healthy and make sure they’re out enjoying camp.”

The Chicago-area campers will depart from SCDAI’s office, located at 8100 S. Western Ave. on the Southside of Chicago, today at 8:30 a.m. The campers will travel to North Star Reach on an Ideal Charter bus; transportation costs are paid for by the CHECK (Coordination of Health Care for Complex Kids) program at The University of Illinois at Chicago.

Chicago-area hospitals sending campers this week include Advocate Health Care, Rush University Medical Center, University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, La Rabida Children’s Hospital, Loyola University Medical Center, and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. The North Star Reach Sickle Cell Week of camp will run from today through Saturday, August 6th.