The Water Warriors: Camaraderie, Spirit and Heart
By: Senior Director of Public Relations & Marketing Kimberly Purdy
Photo caption (left to right):
Athletes Viann Markel, Kristen May, Amy Faggion, Todd Williams and Guy Schoenith
Special Olympics Michigan athlete Todd Williams, from Petoskey, wore a big smile and bubbled with personality, enjoying camaraderie while riding on a support boat during the 22nd annual Water Warriors Mackinaw Ride.
Williams said, "I look at everyone as family and I like to build on the family."
Williams competes in Area 33 (Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Emmet and Otsego Counties). He started competing in Special Olympics five years ago in track and field, basketball and soccer. He enjoys competing and getting out in the public. Williams has worked at Applebee's in Petoskey for ten years. At age 32, he's a pretty social guy.
Williams is just one of dozens of athletes who greeted the Water Warriors at their many stops July 23-27. This was the 22nd year for the annual 5-day, 350-mile personal watercraft fundraising endurance ride along the Lake Huron shoreline from Mackinaw City to Harsens Island. The Water Warriors is a group of about 50 men and women from a variety of backgrounds who pair their love of water sports with their desire to help Special Olympics Michigan athletes. Members hold a variety of roles such as rider, land support, or boat support. A mechanic is always on hand to repair machines as needed.
What the Water Warriors do is no easy task! Lake Huron is the second largest Great Lake by surface area and the fifth largest freshwater lake in the world. This year's ride was the roughest for the Water Warriors in 16 years. But they showed their spirit and heart.
Area 33 athlete Guy Schoenith from Cheboygan also enjoyed his ride on a support boat. He watched the Water Warriors hold on tight to their machines behind him, as they maneuvered rough water. "I like the Water Warriors and what they do for us," Schoenith said.
Schoenith competes in alpine skiing, soccer and horseshoes. He said he enjoys Special Olympics Michigan because, "I like being involved and it gets me out doing stuff."
It's because of athletes like Williams and Schoenith that the Water Warriors ride every year. They battle wind, waves and weather, taking on those challenges one week a year, to raise money for children and adults with intellectual disabilities who face challenges every day of their lives.
That's why Bryan Rollison got involved. Bryan and his wife Roxanne have four children. The youngest, 16-month old Preston, was born with Down syndrome. The Rollison's already know they will be involved with Special Olympics Michigan the rest of their lives. Bryan joined the Water Warriors this year and rode all five days. His wife, mother, Preston, and two other children came along to help with land support and provide moral support.
Bryan said, "This will near and dear to our hearts for the rest of our lives."
The rest of Esther Radgowski's life will be different. After 17 years riding with the Water Warriors,
she rode her last Water Warrriors ride this year. At age 61, she is having some health issues. But Esther plans to continue providing land support and holding her annual steak dinner fundraiser during the ride.
Radgowski said, "It brings tears to my eyes, it always has. I've seen Opening Ceremonies at State events and it is beautiful. These athletes need this. They are special."
The special part about the ride for the Water Warrriors is seeing athletes at various stops along the shoreline. Port Austin is an especially emotional stop. More than 50 athletes are transported from local group homes to meet, greet and mingle with the Water Warrriors. Many of the athletes also get rides on personal watercraft.
Water Warriors member Brad Saegesser said, "It is a lot of fun. Everywhere we stop along the ride there are athletes there. We give them rides on our jet skis around some of the harbors. They're always there with signs greeting us when we come into the harbors, cheering us on. They get so excited every year when the Water Warriors come into town. Just seeing the smiles on their faces puts smiles on our faces."
The Water Warriors raise $50,000-$70,000 a year. Since their inception 22 years ago they have raised more than $2.2 million. They are the Presenting Sponsor of the State Poly Hockey Finals November 17-18 in Lansing.
If you are interested in joining the Water Warriors for the 2013 ride contact Water Warriors Coordinator Wendy May at (810)499-9508 Waterwarriors.email@example.com
You can ride for the full five days, or just a day or two. Fundraising commitments vary by length of ride commitment. You can view photos and videos from the 2012 ride on their facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SpecialOlympicsMichigam
- 6/20: Water Warriors Boatyard Grille (Chesterfield Township)
- 6/21: 2013 Deputy Sheriff's Golf Outing (Cadillac)
- 6/21: 6th Annual Highlands Golf Classic (Grand Rapids)
- 6/22: Area 8 Miniature Golf (Okemos, Michigan 48864)
- 6/23: 7th Annual Area 19 Golf Scramble (Battle Creek)
- 6/24: 2013 MOMC Charity Muskie Derby (Grosse Pointe Shores)
- 6/25: Water Warriors Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser (Port Huron)
- 7/1: Annual Midland Golf Outing (Midland)
- 7/13: 3rd Annual Buffalo Wings & Rings Golf Outing (Macomb, MI 48042)
- 7/26: LETR Outback Luncheon (Saginaw)