It takes a team to keep the Valparaiso YMCA running, with awesome people filling all kinds of roles. Larry Schiesser is a dedicated bus driver for the Y family, but also a supportive friend and athlete. It is not rare to see Schiesser in the YMCA Wellness Center working out and training for the Willis Tower SkyRise stair climb, an event that requires commitment, conditioning, and a big heart.
The SkyRise stair climb is an annual event where participants scale 103 floors of stairs in Willis Tower, also known to many as Sears Tower. Proceeds and pledges for the event go towards Shirley Ryan Abilitylab, which is a research hospital for individuals with brain and spinal cord injuries, as well as stroke recovery. Schiesser participates in honor of his best friend’s late wife, Brenda Black, who battled back after a stroke and did the climb two-years in a row while fighting cancer.
“Me, my friends and family do the event in her name,” said Schiesser. “Of all the people I’ve ever met, she was one of the sweetest. She was just one great lady, so we do it in her memory.”
This year, Schiesser and his team collected $7100 in pledges for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which is a branch of the Abilitylab. Making the climb is no easy feat, especially for a man in his golden years. After two months of training, he managed to finish the climb seven minutes ahead of his granddaughter. Always keeping fit, active, and social, Larry never loses his smile and friendly attitude.
“I try and keep in pretty good shape,” said Schiesser. “I love playing HORSE at the Y, I’ve only been beat 3 or 4 times in 3 years at the Y, and I see these pretty good players and I ask ‘you ever been beat by a 68 year old guy?’ and I’ve met a lot of great guys that way.”
Schiesser is rarely idle, other than his work at the Y alongside his wife of 45 years, Penny, he also coaches youth basketball, fishes, golfs, and tries to make it out to as many Valparaiso University basketball games as he can - sometimes doing all of those things in single day!
“I manage to keep myself busy,” he joked. “Sometimes I’ve got a 15-hour day, if that doesn’t keep you in shape I don’t know what will!”
Schiesser loves working with people and helping out however he can, that is a big part of why he loves working at the Y. He could tell stories all day about the kids he meets and shuttles for the Y.
“I love working with kids,” said Schiesser. “I talk to them on the bus. One day I took this old radio that had a polka tape in it on the bus, pressed play, and the kids just loved it. I just love being around kids, we get along so well.”
With his commitment to others, incredible health and positivity, and friendly demeanor, the Valparaiso YMCA is proud to have Schiesser as a part of its family. Learn more about the Valpo Family YMCA at www.valpoymca.org.
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