Seven members of the extended Koelsch family completed the 5k/3k walk at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center on Saturday. They walked as a unit over the rocky roads of Cheyenne Bottoms, supporting each other in the true meaning of family.
It took an hour, and they came in last. People clapped when they crossed the finish line.
“We made it,” said 83-year-old June Koelsch. “We were very thrilled.”
“My Mom is the inspirational one,” said her daughter, Sandy Spencer. “She is the best sport. I’m so proud of her.”
Spencer has devic disease which is similar to multiple sclerosis and is also an autoimmune disorder. There is no cure. Sandy is paralyzed and in a wheel chair. She has had the disease about eight years.
It was her idea to participate in the Wild Goose Chase. Her husband, Steve, pushed her in the wheel chair, which they retrofitted with a large wheel in front to make going over rocks and rough areas possible.
It is hard to determine who is prouder of whom.
“I’m very proud of Sandy. She challenges her family,” said Koelsch. “She pushes us.”
Spencer looked at it as a good way to get the family together. She enjoys being outdoors and stays in shape by working out four days a week at home and at the local YMCA.
June walks two miles every morning at Club 1 Fitness. When Spencer challenged her for the event, June upped the miles she walks each day to three to build stamina to compete.
The Wild Goose Chase was “something different we can do together that is fun,” said Spencer. She particularly was inspired by seeing the children participating in the race with parents.
Spencer is a busy woman. She has a doctorate degree in veterinary and a journalism degree. She is a medical editor for a medical magazine. She volunteers part time at the physical therapy department at the local hospital in Atchison, and fixes food for people.
“She’s very good to the community,” said Koelsch. “She has to be near an angel,”
June also fixes food for people, and after the walk, cooked a family dinner for 10 at her home.
Spencer finds the secret to staying positive as getting outside of herself. “You have to stay out of your head,” she said. Depression can be a side effect of her illness, but she finds inspiration in her volunteer activities and seeing people get better through physical therapy.
She also likes to laugh. She says she tells her husband, laughing, “If I’d known this was going to happen, I would have been a lot nicer to you earlier on.”
This is not the first race the two have participated in. Last year, they completed one in Atchison.
Participating in the event were June, Richard Koelsch, Ron and Debbie Koelsch, Steve and Sandy, and Debbie’s sister, Patti.
Spencer graduated from Great Bend High School in 1976 and currently lives in Atchison.
“We’re just a regular family who appreciates our family life,” said Koelsch. “I’m proud of (Sandy) for her faith and attitude.”