Cool off for a good cause on Saturday

NEGAUNEE – The temperature has been rising in the Upper Peninsula lately and a cold swim in a lake is seen as a great way to cool off.

For the last 12 years, the U.P. Diabetes Outreach Network have been using that idea to help raise money and awareness for their cause with a race across Teal Lake and on Saturday the race takes place again.

The 2.25-mile open water swim, officially called The 12th annual Swim Teal Lake: Benefit for Diabetes, is a race from the Negaunee side of the lake to Ishpeming’s Al Quaal Recreation Area and draws a large turnout of competitors.

“We usually have around a hundred swimmers that participate and about that many kayakers help us keep the swimmers safe,” UPDON office manager Kristen Cambensy said. “It’s a pretty big event and it’s probably one of the longer open water swims in Michigan.”

For those who don’t know, UPDON is a nonprofit group that does a variety of things to promote diabetes care and prevention across the U.P.

“We help train dieticians and diabetic educators and try to make sure that they have the best resources available,” Cambensy said. “We put on a conference in October and this will be our second year doing that.

“We also do a lot of other projects like a telephonic diabetes program where we help patients hook up with educators over the phone and have a little extra help to stay on track with their health.”

For the second year in a row, the Western Marquette County Health Foundation has given UPDON a match grant for the race. Cambensy says that every dollar that is raised in swimmer donations, WMCHF will match it, up to $10,000.

“I have about 55 (swimmers) that have registered so far, which is pretty good and we have around 20 to 30 register the day of the swim,” she said. “A lot of people get up in the morning and say ‘Uh, well, I suppose I could swim that’ and they come out.

“Last year, we hit the mark and we got the extra $10,000 from the foundation. We definitely want to hit the mark again.”

Cambensy said there is a suggested donation of $75 and each swimmer gets a T-shirt and other goodies. There will also be a raffle at the event to raise money for UPDON with a nice grand prize. Tickets are $5 apiece or five for $20.

“We are giving away an inflatable standup paddleboard,” Cambensy said. “It has a retail value of $1,200 and it’s made by Xterra, and they are one of our sponsors. They gave us a really nice discount on it, so we thought it would be kind of neat to raffle off.

“There’s also a lot of local businesses throughout the U.P. that have donated prizes for the raffle.”

In addition to that, UPDON has been able to get celebrities such as former Olympic swimmers Mark Spitz and Janet Evans to come out to the event in the past, but this year’s guest, former Olympic swimmer Gary Hall Jr., had to drop out due to a family event.

Cambensy hopes Hall can make it next year and that they are “dreaming big” and hoping celebrities like Nick Jonas and Bret Michaels, both of whom have Type 1 diabetes, can come here in the future.

A celebrity may not be there Saturday, but Cambensy says it will still be a fun experience for the swimmers and the spectators.

“It’s a great event and you can’t beat the sight of a hundred swimmers in bright orange and bright pink and bright green caps swimming across with the bright-colored kayaks,” she said. “It’s pretty fantastic to watch.”

The race will have two heats, with beginners starting at 8:30 a.m. and advanced swimmers – ones who will finish the race in less than 90 minutes – to start at 9 a.m.

Swimmers can register the day of the race starting at 7:45 a.m. or can register and donate beforehand at www.teallakeswim.com.

Anyone interested in helping out or with further questions, can contact Cambensy by email at cambensyk@upcap.org or calling 228-9203.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.