by—Mary Helen Darah
Two Sylvania area residents are featured in the Toledo area 2022 60 Strong calendar, which came out in October. Jim Carr and Betsy Kenniston were chosen for the publication devoted to celebrating those 60 to 69 years old. Nominees for the calendar have either overcome significant health issues, cared for someone in need, or provided an outstanding example of healthy living in their 60s. The calendar includes the stories of those featured and is sponsored locally by the Toledo Clinic Physicians. Proceeds will benefit the Toledo Clinic Foundation.
Carr was nominated by Chris Platz of the YMCA. Platz, along with those who have spent time with Carr, believe that his story will inspire others to live in the now and stay strong through adversity.
“I was pretty active my whole life,” stated Carr. “I retired from ProMedica in 2016 and I remained active and kept swimming regularly. On March 1, 2020, I was swimming in the Sylvania Northview pool, and I just did not feel right. I do not recall anything else from that day, but I was told that three nurses happened to be there and immediately began CPR before three squads from the Sylvania Township Fire Department responded and I was taken to ProMedica Toledo Hospital.”
The next few weeks were difficult for Carr and his family. “The doctor told my wife I wasn’t going to live,” he said. “My aorta had ruptured, and I had to have a surgery that less than one percent survive.” Carr did live but complications soon set in. “My sister said, ‘We were watching you die.’ They once again readmitted me to the hospital and found my entire body was full of blood clots.”
This near-death experience changed Carr. “I vividly remember what I saw and experienced before I was told that it was not my time and to go back,” Carr recalled. “Since then, I have been much more focused on the here and now.” He believes sharing his experience can help others, “When I tell people that I am grateful this happened they look shocked. It grounded me and brought me a level of peace and acceptance.”
Carr is still an avid swimmer. “But now I get lost in it and no longer worry about how fast I go and how many laps I have completed. I get in the water and just BE,” he said.
Calendar honoree Betsy Kenniston was nominated by friends in her pickleball community. Kenniston has enjoyed being active her whole life and one of her greatest passions now is playing pickleball. She is a member of a local club and competes in tournaments in the USA and Europe. She has won over 60 medals. In addition to competitive play, she is an instructor locally and is a USA Pickleball Ambassador. “I also have a blog, ‘Crazy Pickleball Lady,’ that offers free strategies for the novice to the seasoned player,” said Kenniston.
Kenniston was nominated for her strength and endurance on the court and off. “I think the biggest honor was to be acknowledged for being active and for helping others realize they can be active at any age as well,” stated Kenniston. “Everyone who is part of the 60 Strong calendar has or had a health challenge. I have had surgery for melanoma, and I feel extremely fortunate to be healthy following that. I continue to get annual screenings and encourage others to do the same as well.”
Many would be surprised that the avid athletic honoree also struggles with weight. “During retirement, I’ve lost 40 pounds through living a healthy, active lifestyle. I think I have lost 300 pounds over my lifetime. It is a constant battle. I have my ups and downs. When I feel myself starting to gain and think ‘enough,’ I start the process all over again. Yes, it is a challenge but I’m living proof that age is not a factor in living a full, energetic life. Being 60 doesn’t mean you have to stop moving. You just have to be willing to get out there and do it.”
After a close friend was murdered by an addicted family member, Kenniston also underwrote an online resource, APlace4Mary.com, for individuals and families dealing with addiction. She recalled, “My friend never wanted anyone to know what she was dealing with. The online piece is to help people get all the information they need. It is not for addicts but more for families dealing with addicts.”
The honorees are proud to be part of 60 Strong and hope the calendar will motivate others to be the best versions of themselves at any age.
Copies of the calendar with 12 inspiring stories and health tips can be purchased for $15 at Toldeo60Strong.com.