NEGAUNEE - When Dr. Michael Grossman organized the inaugural Swim Teal Lake for Diabetes event in 2004, not many people took part.
"We had 37, most of whom were people I knew," he said heading into Saturday's ninth year of the swim. "Last year, we had 116 swim. This year, we already have 110 registered and may get 130.
"I never dreamed it would take off like this. I had no idea it would reach this point. It has done more than I expected."
Ed Amaya of Chicago finished the 2011 Teal Lake Swim in 20th place in the men’s division with a time of 1 hour, 11 minutes, 32 seconds last year. (Journal file photo by Kyle Whitney)
Staged to draw attention to diabetes and help financially support the Upper Peninsula Diabetes Outreach Network, the 2.25-mile swim at Negaunee's Teal Lake will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday for beginners.
At 9 a.m., more competitive swimmers will enter the water, followed at 9:30 a.m. with a sprint.
Registration will be conducted a half hour before each event begins.
The swim will start at Teal Lake beach in Negaunee and end at the Al Quaal Recreation Area beach in Ishpeming. Volunteer kayakers will be on hand to assist swimmers.
Olympic silver medalist Coralie Simmons won the women's race last year in 50 minutes, 24 seconds, while Michael Cox of Arvada, Colo., (50:03) claimed the men's title.
Each swimmer Saturday has solicited pledges of $75 or more, Grossman said, with proceeds helping to fund a diabetes camp for kids ages 5-15.
"The camp, this year held at Clear Lake in Munising, takes about 30 kids," Grossman said. "It's a free, five-day, overnight camp."
He added more than $100,000 has been raised for UPDON and the camp.
"UPDON is funded by the state and has seen its funding cut dramatically," said Grossman, who plans to swim Teal Lake Saturday.
With the help of Bell Hospital in Ishpeming, Grossman started the Teal Lake event after taking a personal interest in diabetes when his 2-year-old son Ben, now 27, was diagnosed with the disease.
"I wanted to draw attention to the importance of exercise for people with diabetes and also draw attention to UPDON," Grossman said.
UPDON office manager Kay Bammert said Dana Stine of Marquette, a mother of a Type 1 diabetic son, supports the network year-round and plans to act as a safety support for the swimmers on Saturday.
"Kayaking Teal Lake during the swim isn't nearly as hard as swimming the 2miles, but it's important and something I can do to help," she told Bammert.
"I encourage both my sons to be physically active knowing it's critical to good health.
"That's what I like about the fundraiser," Stine added. "It promotes being physically active."
Grossman said those who take part in the swim say it's a "great accomplishment."
"They're proud to swim the lake," he said. "They know they've done a great thing for themselves, given others a greater awareness of diabetes and supported a summer camp for kids."
Grossman added there's also another benefit from taking part in the event.
"It calls attention to Teal Lake, a clear, beautiful lake where no gas motors are allowed," he said.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.