2018-06-14 / Front Page

At 97, life turns to a leap of faith

PLUNGE FOR POLIO
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


IT WAS a big ‘thumbs up’ for 97-year-old Rotarian Dick Grout who jumped out an airplane to raise funds to fight polio. Also pictured is instructor Ryan Seelye. 
Photo by: Michelle Medjesky IT WAS a big ‘thumbs up’ for 97-year-old Rotarian Dick Grout who jumped out an airplane to raise funds to fight polio. Also pictured is instructor Ryan Seelye. Photo by: Michelle Medjesky Dick Grout doesn’t scare easily.

The 97-year-old member and past president of the Suttons Bay-Leelanau County Rotary Club went the extra mile — more like two miles — up in the air before jumping out of an airplane Sunday to raise funds to help eradicate polio.

“It was a gorgeous day. Clear. You could see a lot of the country,” he said.

A member of the Greatest Generation, Grout was one of 142,000 Allied soldiers who took part in the D-Day invasion on Normandy, France.

But his arrival on the beaches was by water — not from the sky.

Sunday he was one of 22 Rotarians from northern Michigan who gathered at Charlevoix Muncipal Airport for “Jump for Polio” an event organized by the Elk Rapids Rotary Club.


SUTTONS BAY Rotarian Dick Grout, 97, jumped out of an airplane Sunday to help raise funds for Rotary International’s effort to eradicate polio across the globe. SUTTONS BAY Rotarian Dick Grout, 97, jumped out of an airplane Sunday to help raise funds for Rotary International’s effort to eradicate polio across the globe. Rotarians and friends of Rotarians made contributions to Rotary International to support each “jumper.”

He made the jump in tandem with instructor Ryan Seelye, who was a familiar face for Grout as the student and instructor had met in August 2013, when Grout plunged in a parachute for another worthy cause.

The two were paired a tandem jump over the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula to raise funds for Black Sheep Crossing, a farm animal sanctuary in Leelanau Township.

“He recognized me from the jump at Northport,” Grout said, adding that they had 15 minutes to chat while the airplane climbed to more than 10,500 feet. “He’s a delightful young man and really knows what he is doing.”

But in the time since his first jump, Grout has faced some health issues. Some that could take other people out of commission for a while. Last year, he underwent open heart surgery.

“They did three things, including replacement of a valve,” he said.

But it didn’t slow him down for long.

Eighteen Suttons Bay Rotarians and seven members of Grout’s church, Suttons Bay Congregational, pledged $3,150 in support of the spry nonagenarian. This, plus a 2:1 match by the Gates Foundation, generated $9,450 toward the Rotary International initiative to eliminate polio worldwide.

“The Rotary goal to eliminate polio worldwide was initiated in 1987 and was embraced at the time by the Suttons Bay Rotary Club and many others,” he said. “New polio cases worldwide are now relatively few and this latest effort is to eradicate this disease completely.”

In total, the 22 jumpers participating Sunday raised nearly $40,000, when matched with the Gates Foundation contribution, came to a grand total of $120,000 toward the polio initiative.

Ken Cerny, local club president, thinks highly of Grout, who continues to take a lead role in the club as program chair.

“The Suttons Bay-Leelanau County Rotary Club are proud to call Dick Grout one of our own,” Cerny said. “He truly lives, through his words and actions, the Rotary motto of ‘Service Above Self.’”

News of Grout’s jump was picked up by local television stations and pieces on his efforts have aired on stations in Ohio and West Virginia and as far as Montana.

Is another jump in the offing?

Don’t count him out.

“Maybe if a worthwhile project comes along,” he said.

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