Ryan Stevens has been a swimmer for much of his life. This weekend, he plans to swim across Lake Erie for a cause dear to his heart.
The Maumee triathlete's passion for swimming was almost taken away four years ago.
"Back in 2009, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease," he explained. "I lived for about two years on my couch."
In two years, Stevens dropped from 185 pounds to 120.
"My life shut down, basically," he said. "I was at the Cleveland Clinic and they said, ‘You really should not leave here with your colon.'"
In 2011, Stevens' colon was surgically removed. Two years later, he's not quite ready to do a triathlon, but that isn't keeping him from doing something only 14 other people have ever done.
"The Canadian-American answer to swimming the English Channel," he said. "It's Long Port, Ontario, Canada, and then we're going to go straight south to northeast Pennsylvania. And that's about 24 miles."
Stevens knows he can make the swim in about 12 hours, but it's the weather that has him worried. Either way, it's the reason he's doing it that matters most.
"There are a lot of others who have the same diseases and they are just far worse than I ever was, so I want to try and give back by raising awareness," he said. "I know people who have had 30 surgeries because of Crohn's. It's never-ending, but I'm hoping it will inspire some to say, ‘We can still live and go out there and do the things we want to do.'"
Stevens' goal is to raise $10,000 for research at the Cleveland Clinic. To donate to the cause, visit his website here.