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Sue Schuerr: Serving beyond self

Volunteering is cure for blues for retired schoolteacher

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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Sue Schuerr doesn’t like to be bored.

But that’s not a common problem for the spunky retired Cary-Grove High School English teacher, who keeps herself busy with plenty of volunteering.

The 66-year-old Fox River Grove resident is an avid skier, and alongside her husband, Larry Schuerr, who is an instructor at Wilmot Ski Hill, they have lent their talents to Adaptive Adventures. Through the organization, the Schuerrs help veterans from a nearby VA hospital get a needed adrenaline rush, and they also work with a cross-section of individuals with physical disabilities.

“We both decided we wanted to spend our [retirement] years helping other people,” Sue Schuerr said. “Our hearts just melted to see them.”

Working side by side, Larry and Sue Schuerr are quite the pair, with his 6-foot 2-inch frame to hers at 5 feet. Sue Schuerr insists she’s only one-half of a husband-and-wife do-gooder team. Still, she’s a fast follower and the first to jump up and offer help when it’s needed.

“I feel empathy a lot for people,” she explained. “Like in the neighborhood, if I know someone has a problem, it weighs on me, I’ve got to do something.”

She did just that when she helped out a single mother by taking four boys under her wing, teaching them piano, taking them on hikes, swimming or cross-country skiing, and otherwise opening her home to them.

“I saw a sparkle in the boys’ eyes,” she said.

Sue and Larry Schuerr also started a bicycle program and have repaired and given away more than 2,000 bicycles to local children.

Sue Schuerr also volunteers with the Bright Hope International, which works with the poorest of the world’s poor. With the organization, she is working on a project that will build a church school in Haiti.

A bookworm by nature, Schuerr writes the Compassion and Justice blog for Willow Creek Community Church, where she attends in either Barrington or Crystal Lake.

“I just feel like I’ve got this time now, and I’m going to use every day I can to try to make a difference,” she said. “... We’re quite active, and we want to use our energy while we have it.”

Sue Schuerr was nominated as an Everyday Hero by her friend and neighbor Michele Holt, who mentioned Sue Schuerr’s work as president of a women’s club that helps keep their neighborhood safe and clean.

“Sue is a difference-maker, and my hero,” Holt wrote in her nomination.

With all her energy and lust for life, Sue Schuerr has uncovered the secret to living well.

“I think [volunteering is] the cure for depression,” she said. “When people say they are depressed, I say, ‘If you get out of yourself and give to someone else, you’ll feel a whole lot better.’

“People who are wrapped around themselves make a very small package,” she continued. “If you reach out and help someone that really has needs, you can’t but help but be blessed yourself.”

The Sue Schuerr lowdown

Who is she? Retired teacher who volunteers in her neighborhood and with Adaptive Adventures

Age: 66

Family: Husband of 44 years, Larry; children Deborah, Julia (Geoff) and Aaron (Lynelle) and five grandchildren.

Last book she read: “My Secret Daughter” by Shilpi Somya Gowda.

Hobbies: Playing the piano or bicycle riding.

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