NEGAUNEE - A handful of wet-suited swimmers and kayakers took to the water to swim across Teal Lake recently.
The afternoon exercise was a training session for the 11th Annual Swim Teal Lake: Benefit for Diabetes, when more than a hundred swimmers, accompanied for safety by volunteer kayakers, will hit the water Saturday to challenge themselves, get active, have fun and raise money to help diabetics in the Upper Peninsula.
Kristin Wodzinski, one of the swimmers training on the lake, has volunteered to help with the event in various capacities over the past four years, and swam the lake's 2.25-mile course from Negaunee to Ishpeming for the first time last year. She said she had a great time.
From left, Marc and Erika Hefke prepare to kayak and swim across Teal Lake in Negaunee Thursday as a training session for the upcoming Swim Teal Lake: Benefit for Diabetes on Saturday. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
"Last year I actually swam it and really, really enjoyed swimming it; it was a really fun event," she said. "It's one of the only swimming races in the U.P. - in the area, for sure - and it's just a really good cause to support, as well."
Dr. Michael Grossman, whose son developed diabetes when he was 2 years old, created the swim 11 years ago and has himself taken to the water every year. He said the relative lack of swimming events in the area was part of the impetus for the benefit's creation.
During its first decade, Swim Teal Lake has raised more than $80,000 for the U.P. Diabetes Outreach Network. UPDON has various programs to help people throughout the peninsula who have diabetes.
Another reason Grossman created the event? He simply likes to swim.
"And of course, swimming and all sorts of exercises are very helpful to people with diabetes, so that kind of finishes the circle," he said.
The race consists of two heats. A beginner heat starts at 8:30 a.m., with more advanced swimmers leaving in the competitive heat at 9 a.m. Registration is available online or the morning of the swim beginning at 7:30 a.m. Participants are asked to register at least a half-hour before their heat.
The suggested donation to participate is $75. The Western Marquette County Health Foundation will match all donations up to $10,000.
This year's celebrity guest is Dr. Natalie Strand, one of the winners of Season 17 of the reality show "The Amazing Race."
"She's a doctor with Type 1 diabetes and she'll be there before and after the race to talk to people and give a little talk," Grossman said. "So if you're a fan of "The Amazing Race," you definitely want to come out, because she was a winner."
Grossman encouraged everyone who enjoys swimming and who is comfortable swimming in a lake to join in the event.
"They don't have to be an expert swimmer," he said. "There will be kayaks, or they can bring their own kayaker with them."
Wodzinski said that while the distance can be daunting, it's not as long or as hard as it seems.
"Come on out and check it out," she said. "It's very doable. Everybody gets a kayaker, so even if you're struggling a little bit, there's always a way to make it across."
For more information, visit teallakeswim.com.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.