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STILL SWIMMING: Annual event took place Saturday to raise funds for diabetes

The Swim Teal Lake Benefit for Diabetes was a family affair for these folks from Ishpeming and Negaunee, three of whom swam in the Short-n-Sweet event and three who paddled in kayaks and canoes along side the swimmers. In back is David Crump. In front is Charli DeGabriele, age 5. And in the middle from the left are Jason DeGabriele, Lindsay DeGabriele, Peggy Crump and Lynn French. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Volunteers register swimmers for the 17th annual Swim Teal Lake Benefit for Diabetes in Negaunee Saturday. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Kristen Cambensy, left, the race director for the Swim Teal Lake Benefit for Diabetes unloads boxes of T-shirts for the event with the help of her sons Wylen, center, and Mark early Saturday morning. The swimming events took place on Teal Lake to raise funds for the Upper Peninsula Diabetes Network. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Swim Teal Lake Benefit for Diabetes Race Director Kristen Cambensy is pictured Saturday at the race.

NEGAUNEE — The decision to have the 17th annual Swim Teal Lake Benefit for Diabetes was one made after much deliberation and conversation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Saturday’s fundraising event did take place. The big change that morning was to start all but the “Short-n-Sweet” swim from the Ishpeming side of Teal Lake rather than the Negaunee side. The change was made because of the wind direction that morning.

Other alterations were made because of COVID-19 protocol.

“This year has been a huge change,” said race director Kristen Cambensy, as she and a slew of volunteers prepared for the arrival of swimmers early Saturday morning. “We are asking everyone wear masks until they get into the water, we changed the number of heats and we are promoting social distancing.”

Last year, about 100 swimmers took part. This year, that number was about 70, with many volunteers bringing kayaks or canoes to paddle along in case a swimmer had difficulty.

“The conditions are not ideal with the wind coming up at us on the Negaunee side. It’s pushed up some waves, too,” Cambensy said.

The Marquette County Sheriff’s Office had a boat in the water, too, just in case.

“They also helped me set up the buoys on Friday,” said Dr. Michael Grossman, founder of the event. “We will do this safely, which is why we’re moving the start of the longer races to the other side.”

Grossman started the event in honor of his son, Ben, who is a type 1 diabetic.

“(Upper Peninsula Diabetes Network) helps those with all forms of diabetes. I worked with UPDON on this swimming event, which is a real challenge. There really weren’t any swimming events locally, so it seemed like a good idea.

“And UPDON continues to do a great job with promoting good diabetes care and awareness.”

Volunteers representing many organizations were present to make registering swimmers as smooth as possible, especially with the start and end points being switched.

Dave Aro of U.P. Children’s Therapy was one of the volunteers Saturday.

“This is sort of one day of normalcy in the pandemic,” Aro said. “I usually volunteer at a few things each summer, like Blues Fest and things like that. This is one of the few events still taking place. I was happy to be able to help.”

For one family, what mattered was participating — together.

Swimmer Peggy Crump was joined in the lake by her daughter Lindsay DeGabriele and her granddaughter Charli DeGabriele, with her daughter Lynn French, her husband David Crump and son-in-law Jason DeGabriele paddling alongside in kayaks and canoes.

Charli, age 5, was one of the youngest participants as well as one of the best fundraisers, gathering $500 in pledges.

“My mom has diabetes,” Charli said. “I want to help.”

All funds raised by swimmers — who sought pledges with their participation — will be matched by the West End Health Foundation up to $15,000.

Anyone wishing to donate to the event can visit swimteallake.org or call 906-273-1120.

Renee Prusi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240. Her email address is rprusi@miningjournal.net.

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