Team honors late midwife by following in his footsteps

Team Walking on Sunshine has a history of winning or nearly winning the annual Carle wellness Step Challenge each year. This year was no different.

Well, actually, it was a little different.

They did beat more than 130 other teams participating in the Step Challenge with an impressive average of 928,338 steps for the six-week contest. Previous Walking on Sunshine teams included six or seven busy midwives and others, but for various good reasons only two members competed this year.  Those two, Paula Clementz, RN, All About Baby, and Kristi Higgs, midwife, OBGYN Clinic, really made their steps count.

They dedicated their Step Challenge to former team captain and master motivator, Ray Spooner.

Spooner, of course, was a former Carle midwife who inspired many with his positive attitude while facing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  Last year he set out to ride his bicycle across the U.S. to raise awareness of ALS and money for research.

Spooner passed away Aug. 8, just two weeks after team Walking on Sunshine completed the Step Challenge.

“We were able to tell him that we won,” said Clementz. “You could tell he was pleased by that.”

In the years competitive, fitness-focused Spooner led Walking on Sunshine, team members would get frequent and enthusiastic texts or emails from their leader exhorting the team to press on. Spooner even adapted Leonard Cohen poetry or lines from Shakespeare into his messages.

This year, though he had lost his ability to speak or send his typically lengthy and inspirational texts, Spooner encouraged team Walking on Sunshine with short texts when Clementz and Higgs reported their progress or visited him.

“I was helping him at home one day and he noticed my wrist pedometer had more than 10,000 steps by noon,” Higgs said. “He promptly texted his approval.”

Higgs knows if he could have, he would have texted more.

“He was fighting to walk and move muscles,” she said. “I had plenty of healthy muscles, I walked for him.”

Spooner still was their motivating force.

“I couldn’t hear it physically, but I could hear him in my head motivating me,” Clementz said. “That’s what I wanted to do – to let him know by doing this he’s never going to be forgotten.”