Beverly Bonnema-Ream, a marathon runner and Camp Quality Coordinator, has been chosen to be one of the Lake County Bicentennial Torchbearers for the statewide torch relay that will run through all 92 of the state’s counties, covering 3,200 miles over five weeks.
The current relay schedule shows that the torch will travel through Lake County on October 9th and 11th. On one of those two days, Ream will have her chance to carry the torch because of her incredible commitment to children.
The first day of the torch bearing through Lake County is the day of Ream’s next marathon. The Chicago Marathon on October 9 will be her 9tth marathon since she began running 9 years ago. She hopes she will have her turn with the torch on the second day through Lake County or “I might have to crawl with it!” she joked.
Ream’s running story is a little bit different than most. She did not lace up her running shoes until she was 60 years old and after only a year of running she ran a full marathon.
She started running when she got a place at Bass Lake. She was normally pretty athletic and often went to the gym, but there was no gym near by. “So I just thought, I’ll run. It wasn’t quite as easy as I thought.”
Eager to get better, she joined a run program at Fleet Feet in Schererville and then she soon became a mentor for other runners there. She has also mentored runners at Miles with Misty in Crown Point, which she really liked because the program actually teaches people how to run.
When asked what got her into marathons so soon after she started running, she said, “I probably didn’t know any better.”
After finishing her first 5K program with Fleet Feet she thought, “Okay, I guess I’m ready for a marathon.” And her first marathon ended up being her best.
Ream loves marathons because of the supportive crowds that cheer you on and the friends you make during the 26 miles. “It’s the social aspect. And you feel like a rockstar.”
Ream currently works for Camp Quality as a Coordinator. Her job is to interview new volunteers and pair them up with a child with cancer for their one-on-one program during the camp sessions. Her volunteers range from 18 to now 77 years of age, and she tries to match them up by interests and ages groups. Like for instance, she would match a 5 year old girl with the 77 year old to mimic a grandfather/grandmother and grand child relationship.
“I’m pretty proud of the matches we’ve made where they make lifelong friendships. And I was a Companion in the beginning and so, my camper is now 25 and she’s a Companion.”
Though Camp Quality is in Frankfort, IL, Ream says there is a lot of people who go there every summer from Indiana. The organization holds one week of summer camp a year and then holds various events throughout the year such as a family weekend where the whole family is invited to spend a weekend in a hotel and enjoy a vacation.
Ream has even inspired her twin granddaughters to help. They just recently finished up their first year at Valparaiso University and have also become Companions for Camp Quality. Ream is very proud of both of them for all of their hard work in school and as eager volunteers.
Ream was inspired to start volunteering at Camp Quality because of her daughter, who was a childhood cancer survivor. She began volunteering 5 years after her daughter’s diagnosis, now 21 years ago.
Ream says her favorite part of it all is seeing the kids have fun and make friends. “Because those kids don’t have a lot of fun. They don’t know their sick when they’re there. You know, and they find other kids just like them. And they make lifelong friendships. So, that’s probably part of it, seeing the friendships build.”
Ream’s entire career before Camp Quality was spent as a Lab Supervisor for Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, IL as a Blood Bank Supervisor for 42 years. During those years and now, Ream has stayed away from the medical part of it all.
“Even now I stay away from the medical part of these kids. I don’t want to know. You know, and I know enough medical things that if I hear a little bit, I know.”
Ream also does volunteer work for her church, Faith Church in Dyer. She teaches 3 year olds in Sunday School. Since she retired, she also works as a volunteer mentor for Kids Hope, where she mentors at-risk kids.
She recently had to say goodbye to a 4th grade girl she has been mentoring for 3 years now, that has moved away. As a mentor she often spends lunch hour with the kids, playing games or helping with homework. The program puts strong adults in the lives of kids who need it the most. Ream is eager to meet her new mentor this coming school year.
Ream is a mentor and giver by nature. She takes on big challenges in her life for the good of her own health and for the good of children who need someone to fight for them. She runs a 26 mile race every year and dedicates the rest of her time not spend in her running shoes, with at-risk children or children with cancer, helping them through their own life challenges. That is why Beverly Bonnema-Ream is this week’s NWIndiana Life in the Spotlight.