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Bluebird’s History

One man's dream.

Bluebird has a long history of providing hope for adults with cancer. What started as a single Camp Bluebird retreat in Alabama in 1985, has evolved into many retreat programs across the country. While attending a Bluebird retreat in North Carolina, Bill Timm, a Spring Lake resident battling cancer, decided to bring Camp Bluebird to West Michigan.

Bluebird provided Bill with hope, and that hope led to a dream – a dream of sharing the inspiration and support he felt at the Camp Bluebird experience with West Michigan residents diagnosed with cancer.

Although Bill Timm died in 1994, his dream lived on through his wife, Robin, and their friend and pastor, Rev. Peter Theune. Together they united four organizations – A local Church, North Ottawa Community Hospital, Hospice of North Ottawa Community and the American Cancer Society of Ottawa County – and the first Camp Bluebird of West Michigan was held on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1996.

Today, Bluebird hosts five weekend retreats including offerings for newcomers, couples (a survivor and a caregiver) and a reunion gathering.   We also hold monthly support groups in Spring Lake/Grand Haven and Holland including a Spanish speaking group.   Our name has changed to Bluebird Cancer Retreats of West Michigan but we remain committed to Bill Timm’s dream – a dynamic, healing journey toward emotional and spiritual well-being for persons who experience cancer.

The Bluebird Staff

Committed to lead with compassion & excellence.

Renee Denslow

Renee Denslow

Executive Director

Renee joined Bluebird in January 2009 and carries a special meaning in her heart for the mission and those we serve.  “My dad had 4 separate cancer experiences spanning over 40 years of his life.  He battled and rallied each time primarily because of his incredible attitude and strong will to live” shares Renee.  “The Bluebird mission inspires me every day to try and put others first and to help people find joy in life, even in the most challenging times”.  Renee lives in Spring Lake with her husband Erik, and has three children, Maya, Anna & Eli.

Carrie Brondyke, MSW

Support Group Director

Carrie has been involved with Bluebird since 2010 as a social worker on our retreats.  We are now honored to have her join the team as our monthly support group director!  Carrie shares, “I am passionate about advocating for people and creating rapport with each individual.  I hope to continue assisting our bluebird family in improving their quality of life and provide a safe, caring space for you to be heard.”  Carrie is not only caring and compassionate, she brings a fun loving spirit and an uplifting perspective to share with our bluebird family!

 

Tia Dumbrigue

Retreat Director

Tia joined Bluebird in 2016 as a participant, and has been a retreat volunteer ever since.  In her words “The doctors saved my life, Bluebird saved my soul.   Tia fought a battle with cancer that most can’t even imagine.  After years of treatments and various diagnosis, her doctors told her to get her affairs in order and she entered hospice.  But against all odds, Tia’s cancer went away.  She is now sharing her story of strength and hope as our Retreat Director at Bluebird Cancer Retreats.  

 

Board of Directors

Serving with a heart for the cause.

Loril Garrett

President – Bluebird Cancer Retreats

With a personal passion and professional experience, we are honored to have Loril as part of our Bluebird board.  Loril comes to Bluebird with an incredible background in Oncology beginning with her first clinical rotation in 2001.  Loril has spent many years working as a case manager and a nurse navigator, following patients from the time of diagnosis, through treatment and into survivorship.  She is known for being a nurse that cares deeply about the needs of cancer patients.  Loril has been attending bluebird events and referring her patients our way for many years and we are now lucky to have her officially joining our team!

Mike Pokrywka

Mike Pokrywka

Vice President – Bluebird Cancer Retreats

Mike comes to Bluebird with a personal connection to cancer after losing his father-inlaw, a very close friend, to pancreatic cancer in 2003.  He understands first hand the crippling effect this disease has on friends and loved ones, and how important support and access to resources are in the healing process.  Mike will bring a wealth of knowledge to our Bluebird team with his experience in operations and corporate finance.  He is married to his wife Stacy and lives in Spring Lake, MI.

Ben Keller

Accountant- Bluebird Cancer Retreats

Ben comes to Bluebird with a personal connection to cancer as well. 4 years ago, his family’s world was shaken when his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ben remembers how difficult those months were watching his mom suffer through something he could not control. After 4 years in remission, some anxiety and fear still linger during annual check-ups. Ben wants to give back to Bluebird and help us continue our mission to enhance the lives of those with cancer. Ben is an accounting analyst at ODL in Zeeland, Michigan. He and his wife, Cory live in Spring Lake. 

Molly Fazakerley

Treasurer – Bluebird Cancer Retreats

Molly comes to Bluebird with a background in personal banking. She has a special place in her heart for Bluebird, as she has family members who were affected by cancer. Molly wants to bring hope and value to those in need in our community. She lives in Norton Shores with her husband and two young boys.

Dr. Terri Bott

Radiation Oncologist – University of Michigan Health-Metro Health

As a Board Certified Radiation Oncologist since 2001, Dr. Bott has had significant experience working with cancer patients in Western Michigan.  She was introduced to Bluebird Cancer Retreats when she attended our gala event in 2017.  She shares “cancer is a disease that affects the entire family, and our job is to help the family navigate through the entire process.  The physical, emotional, financial and spiritual toll from cancer is significant.  I am honored to serve on the Board for Bluebird, as this is an extension of the role I already play, but in a more complementary role for recovery and healing”.  We are honored to have Dr. Bott as part of the Bluebird team.

Jess Garrison

Realtor, Coldwell Banker

Jess Garrison is a third generation resident of Spring Lake, MI. He graduated from Spring Lake High School in 2005, where he played football, basketball and ran track. After high school, Jess attended Michigan State University. An active member of the community, Jess serves on the Board of Directors for Reach For Recovery, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. He is a past president and current member of the Spring Lake Rotary Club. He currently servers as a board member of the North Bank Community Fofoundation, and is a board member of the Planning Commission for the Village of Spring Lake. He and his wife (Skylar Garrison) just wrapped up the capital campaign for the beautiful new Tanglefoot Park in the Village of Spring Lake where they servered as Co Chairs. Jess is father to his adorable daughter (Rosemary Garrison) and soon to be son in the summer of 2022 (Wesner Garrison). His love for the West Michigan area has led him to be very involved in the local community. Blue Bird Cancer Retreats is a wonderful organization doing great work for those affected by cancer. When asked to serve on this board, it was a resounding yes! The work they do is phenomenal, and I’m honored to assist in continuing to spread their mission.

Marilyn Sytsma

Marilyn Sytsma

MSW Parmelee & Associates Psychological Consulting

Marilyn’s daughter Erin was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 at age 36 and this became a journey for the entire family.  Marilyn made it her life’s passion to support Erin in every way, including making unique hats for her when she lost her hair.  While Erin is now cancer free, Marilyn continues her passion for making people feel their best during treatment.  She is eager to share her hats and much more with our participants at Bluebird.

Nikki Vanderleest

Inpatient Rehab Manager – Mary Free Bed/Mercy Health

Nikki’s professional life in healthcare has given her a greater insight to the devastation an injury or illness brings. Nikki has been the manager of the inpatient rehab facility at Mercy Health Muskegon since 2008. In September of 2016, Nikk’s family experienced a nightmare of a day. Her otherwise healthy and athletic husband received a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer. This experience gave Nikki a unique understanding of the array of emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis. The impact this had on their family makes the opportunity to be part of Bluebird Cancer Retreats even more rewarding. They are now celebrating 3 years since  her husband Rob’s diagnosis and remission! Nikki, her Husband Rob, and their 3 children reside in North Muskegon.

Darcie Beebe

Transplant Coordinator, Spectrum Health

Darcie comes to Bluebird with over 30 years experience in oncology nursing along with a very personal passion for serving those with cancer.  She and her husband raised their 4 children in Allendale Michigan.  Their life was turned upside down just weeks after she became a nurse, as her 3 year old son Nathan was diagnosed with leukemia.   Nathan is now 28 years old and cancer free and thriving!  We are now honored to have Darcie’s experience and passion serving others to provide hope on this journey!

Advisory Board Members

Serving with a heart for the cause.

Rick Arnold

Owner Broadview Product Development

Patty Keller

Teacher, Spring Lake Public Schools

Gloria LeMaire

Retired Executive Secretary

Rev Peter Theune

Minister & Bluebird Founder

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