GROSSE POINTE SHORES —On July 30—for the eighth year in a row—an adventurous group of a dozen swimmers braved winds gusting to 30 knots and temperatures in the 90s under a scorching sun as they embarked on a 14.2-mile swim across Lake St. Clair.
Their plan was to drop into the water just south of Harsens Island and swim their way back to the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, near Detroit, MI. Unfortunately, due to 30-knot gusts blowing them off-track, the swimmers ended their day swimming about seven miles in just under five hours, about half of their intended course. The lake crossing was aborted due to safety concerns for the swimmers.
“The wind was so strong that it felt as if we were swimming backwards,” said Mike Stevens, Vice President and General Manager of Corporate Fleet Services (CFS), a pioneer in vehicle leasing that serves clients in all 50 states and Canada—SwimmingStClair’s primary sponsor for the eighth year in a row.
“We made the group decision to come in closer to the shore to see if that would ease the conditions and swim an abbreviated course, but we we’re so exhausted. If we had known the winds were going to pick up earlier, we would have started out at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club and swam towards Harsens Island” Stevens added. The swim was still a success and all for a good cause.
The swimmers, who consisted of residents of Metro-Detroit, included: Mike Stevens, 63, David Drapper, 49, Mike Hutchinson, 63, Tim Ross, 60, Kelly Bernard, 50, and Casey Browning, 27, of The Grosse Pointes, Gregg McDuffee, 66, and Derek Weaver, 28, of Detroit, Wally Bernard, 51, of St. Clair Shores, Sara Franklin, 27, of Milford, Blake Kenny, 38, of Rochester, and Jenny Birmoline, 37, of Farmington Hills. Also swimming is Ric and Ricky Geyer, who reside in Georgia.
Stevens, provided a chase boat and actively participate in the swim. Stevens met Ric Geyer at the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC), where they swim.
“Being avid swimmers, I invited Ric to join me at the Chicago Big Shoulders Open Water Swim and he fell in love with it. The next year we decided that we were going to swim across Lake St. Clair and start a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis and his son, who has CF,” Stevens said.
“CFS has, for many years, donated funds to charitable causes. We, as a company, encourage our employees to get involved in a wide array of charitable organizations. Swimming St. Clair provides me an opportunity to not only give back, but to do something I really enjoy at the same time,” Stevens added.
Stevens and Geyer founded “Swimming St. Clair” soon after discovering his son, Ricky Geyer, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease that attacks the lungs and the pancreas. CF restricts airflow in the lungs, and can also block the ability of the body to pull necessary nutrients from food. Geyer wanted to ensure Ricky would have financial support for his lifelong battle with CF. The swims’ proceeds are split between a medical trust fund for Ricky and a donation to the pulmonary wing of Mott’s Children’s Hospital, which has the largest nationally recognized Cystic Fibrosis Center, in the state of Michigan.
“The support means so much to Ricky and I because it not only provides a safety net for him, but it also helps to spread the word about CF. As an example, another new breakthrough came out recently, called Orkambi. It is truly a wonder drug, but cost slightly more than $250,000 per year. There are programs available today for a part of that cost, but it is still outrageous. For some people without insurance, it must be impossible,” Geyer, said.
Orkambi—which gained FDA approval earlier this month—works by correcting the misfolded CFTR protein, which is the root cause of the mutation that causes cystic fibrosis. The drug retails at a hefty $259,000 per year.
Other sponsors of the event include: MySwimPro, Inc., Ross Mortgage, Swim Spray, Hutchinson Cannatella, Draper Law Firm, and Valkill Furniture.
Each year, “Swimming St. Clair” sets a fundraising goal of $10,000, which is to be split between Ricky’s medical trust fund and the Pulmonology wing of Mott’s Children’s Hospital.
Donations to Ricky Geyer’s medical trust fund or the Pulmonology wing of Mott’s Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, can be sent care of Mike Hutchison at The Law Offices of Hutchison, Cannatella, PLC at 1001 Woodward Ave, Suite 1760, Detroit, MI 48226. For more information on “Swimming St. Clair” or cystic fibrosis, please visit www.swimmingstclair.com.