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May 18, 2006
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How cool would it be to cruise fabled Route 66 in a cherry Corvette?

And how much cooler would it be if the trip along “America’s Main Street” helped raise money for research into one of the world’s most debilitating diseases?

Just ask John Bouma Jr., board chair of the Bouma Corp., who is battling ALS, which is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

“I believe this will be one of the most important trips of my life,” said Bouma, who along with former Calvary Church senior pastor Ed Dobson and 40 or so friends will pilot a fleet of Corvettes along the historic roadway from Michigan to the famous pier in Santa Monica, Calif.

What started as Bouma’s dream trip after being diagnosed with ALS in September has evolved into an active national effort to raise awareness of the diverse “faces of ALS” and the many people it affects.

“I pray we will raise a lot of money for ALS and that the people we meet along the way will be blessed by what God has done,” Bouma said.

The trip starts Thursday and is scheduled to finish on the pier on May 24.

Nationally renowned local photographer David DeJonge is along for the ride, and his task will be to photograph ALS patients residing in states along the way next to famous landmarks along Route 66.

“This is an awesome opportunity and an awesome cause,” said DeJonge. “We hope to raise a lot of awareness regarding ALS.”

DeJonge said he will feature the images in a traveling exhibit that will be used by ALS Association chapters throughout the country to redefine people’s perceptions of ALS as the disease of a fellow American, neighbor and friend.

Dobson, who was diagnosed with ALS in the fall of 2000, has since become a strong advocate for raising money for ALS research and treatment.

The disease forced Dobson to retire from Calvary’s pulpit in September. There are currently no known causes or cures for ALS, so this trip is a bittersweet reminder that Dobon’s and Bouma’s efforts are most likely in the hopes of helping future generations.

“ALS. These three letters forever changed my life,” said Dobson. “Through my battle with the disease, I have found courage and hope from others with ALS. I can only pray that we raise a lot of money to help them — and me.”

Dobson and Bouma will not be alone on their road trip. A dozen Corvettes, two motorhomes and a helicopter will be part of the caravan. Some of the drivers include J.C. Huizenga, Dana and Judy Sommers and Ross and Terri Luurtsema.

For more information or to donate, contact Tom Farley of the Michigan chapter of the ALS Association at (616) 459-1900.

  • The Nantucket Baking Co. and Dwelling Place Inc. were honored last week by the city and the city’s Historic Preservation Commission with outstanding commercial preservation awards.

Nantucket Baking was named for its effort in restoring the building at 208 Union Ave. NE, while Dwelling Place was cited for rehabilitating three buildings at 106-128 South Division Ave. in the Heartside Business District.

The HPC also named American Realty at 838 Cherry St. SE and Bear Manor Properties at 607 Union Ave. SE as winners of the outstanding group awards. Barb and Dave Huyser and Jim Olund were honored for outstanding projects by individuals for their work at 348 Eureka Ave. SE and 565 College Ave. SE, respectively.

The ceremony marked the 12th consecutive year the HPC and the city has bestowed these awards.

  • Talk about your frequent flyer miles. Last Thursday night, Marge Byington made it to the 20th annual Michigan Women’s Foundation dinner in support of one of the award winners, retired Detroit City Council President Maryann Mahaffey. Thursday also was the same day Byington spent time in Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit.

The whirlwind schedule is nothing new for Byington, whom most remember locally as the first woman chair of the Kent County Board of Commissioners. It’s too bad she couldn’t be on hand when the Kent County Waste-to-Energy facility earned the distinction of becoming Michigan’s first municipal facility to be designated as a Clean Corporate Citizen, since she played a significant role in its formation. Must have been in Toronto (or Cleveland) then.

The other Women’s Foundation honorees included Kim Horn, president and CEO of Priority Health; Leslie Murphy, senior group managing partner at Plante & Moran; Rochelle Riley, columnist for the Detroit Free Press; and Sister M. Aquinas Weber, chancellor emerita of Aquinas College.

  • Calvin College has named Henk Aay, a professor in the geology, geography, and environment studies department, as the first Frederik Meijer Endowed Chair in Dutch Language and Culture.

The donation from Meijer will support and ensure Dutch language instruction at Calvin as well as fund efforts to promote understanding of past and present-day Netherlands including speakers, workshops and seminars.

Born in the Netherlands, Aay is a native speaker who said he has always had a passion for the Netherlands.

“In some ways it feels a little like the culmination of my career, the icing on the cake,” he said. “It will be a privilege to make that passion part of the work of the new chair.”

Aay has published research on the settlement of geography of the Dutch in West Michigan; on environmental advertising; the history of geographic education; and the relationships between nature and culture in works of fiction among other topics.

“Dr. Aay is a scholar and a native of the Netherlands who has broad experiences with the country including co-leading regular off-campus interims there, facilitating visits of Dutch scholars to Calvin, sabbatical work at two Dutch universities, a variety of essays and books and much more,” said Gaylen Byker, president of Calvin College. “I am very pleased that he will be the first holder of this chair.”

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