by Jon Shaner
Dwight Chambers was already a member of the Grand Rapids, Mich., Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center when a stroke took away his eyesight more than two years ago. He thought he might not be able to continue exercising at the facility he enjoyed.
“After the stroke, I was almost paralyzed because when your eyesight is out, now you’re just stumbling and bumbling all around,” he said.
Now, despite being legally blind, he is back at his fitness routine, thanks to help from the Kroc Center scholarship fund and an attentive staff.
“From the time I hit the door, they’re right there at the front desk,” he said. “They run me upstairs, help me on my machine, then they have me timed…take me back down to the lobby , and I’m out of there. I appreciate that very much.”
Chambers is one of the members whose stories are featured in the Kroc’s new “Together” campaign, created to help celebrate the center’s fifth anniversary.
Major Marc Johnson, senior Kroc Center officer, explained the “Together” concept: “Life is so much better when you do it together, isn’t it? When you share life with people that you care about, and you form memories… I think those are special blessings from God,” he said. “As we look forward, we are excited about more life together as we continue to grow.”
The Grand Rapids Kroc Center also held a full slate of special events for the anniversary. They started last September with “Kroc Gives Back,” as Kroc staff, members, corps attendees and community partners teamed up for a volunteer weekend that saw the cleanup of two local elementary schools plus nearly 20 other home improvement projects for neighbors.
Captains Peter and Catherine Mount, who served at the Kroc Center from 2010 to 2013, returned for a “Reunion Sunday” worship service and potluck. A number of former—and new—worshipers also attended the event.
The annual Monster Mash festival, where kids in costume go “trunk-or-treating” around vehicles in the Kroc Center parking lot, reached a record attendance between 1,500 to 2,000 people.
On the actual fifth anniversary date, November 1, the center held a community celebration with a free pancake breakfast and worship, followed by special entertainment and prizes, including a ThinkFast interactive family trivia game, bounce houses, glitter tattoos and balloon animals, along with the regular family recreational activities.
The Kroc Center honored its long-time members and staff later that week with a spaghetti dinner and entertainment by Christian illusionist Tom Coverly. The anniversary events wrapped up with a VIP dinner for donors and contractors who helped to make the Kroc Center a reality in Grand Rapids. Through conversations and video messages, the VIP dinner helped to connect donors with the members and guests who have been able to benefit from the facility in the last five years—people like Dwight Chambers.
“I had all sorts of aches and pains, but since I’ve been exercising regularly, they’re gone,” he said. “As far as me encouraging somebody else to come to the Kroc Center, all I can do is tell them what all it did for me.”