"You Have to Give to Live"
If you ask Mike Kabat how he's doing today, he'll quickly respond with an upbeat, "Tip Top!" His great attitude and personality is consistent with his love for life that he shares at the Y.
At one time, Mike was an avid runner. Between the ages of 30 and 60, he ran 40,000 miles, including two marathons, six half marathons, and countless 5K and 10K races. During his first 20 years of the sport, he ran alone, until about the time he joined the Y North Branch and started working out with several other members from his church.
It was common to see Mike and his friends in the early morning, praying around the flag pole outside of the Y before taking off on their run together. The combination of prayer, exercise, and friendship energized the men for their day ahead of family and work responsibilities. And there was often singing too. Mike would lead his friends in song along the running route – or even in the showers back at the Y.
Three years ago this fall, Mike was biking with his friends when he suffered a terrible accident that left him paralyzed. Although he lost the use of his legs, he's kept his positive spirit alive. "When my accident happened to me, it also happened to my wife, Deb," Mike says. "She has been a saint adjusting to this big change in life." The Kabats have been married 35 years, and have three children and six grandchildren.
While Mike no longer comes to the Y in the morning around 5 when it opens, he's developed a new successful routine in the Wellness Center. Three days a week, between 9 and 10 a.m., Mike can be found quickly racing around the track in his wheelchair past the joggers and the walkers. Mike figures that every 10 miles equals 5,000 pushes of the wheels on his chair. It's amazing that during his typical three days at the Y, he can cover as much as 15,000 miles.
Every other visit to the Y, Mike also exercises on the weight machines to keep his muscles toned. At age 63, he loves to work out. Accompanying him is Julie Van Den Heuvel who has improved her physical fitness levels since she started working with Mike as his manager. His enthusiasm is contagious in so many ways.
Mike has fun at the Y passing along his Irish heritage. When he arrives at the front desk to check in, he's known to greet staff with "Top of the morning to you." And he's taught them to "become a little more Irish" by finishing his greeting with, "And the rest of the day to you too."
Along with his love of all things Irish, he loves mustard. He hosted the first annual Mustard and Salsa Day this spring in the Wellness Center. He brought the mustard, tortilla chips, salsa, and 100 plates. It was so well received that he needed to use 10 more plates from the Y.
He treasures giving away small presents, from Honey Crisp apples to shiny colored eggs during the Easter season. "You have to give, to live," Mike says.
– By Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC. 2011