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Stories to inspire you.

Some people love bar crawls. Some people love bicycling. Laurie Ryan loves both. She also loves Grand Rapids—and  from the combination of the three came the Great Lakes Pub Cruiser, in April 2012. Laurie got the idea for this party on wheels during a trip to Minneapolis: "I saw it and said, what in the world is that?" Laurie signed herself up immediately to take a ride. She had "a ball," and when she got home told friends, "I don't care what I have to sell or mortgage, I'm going to get one of those." So, Laurie and her girlfriends went into business. And now West Michigan can have a ball, too. 

How do you spell passion? In Grand Rapids, it's S-H-A-N-N-O-N-W-I-L-S-O-N. As executive director of the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, Shannon is working to bridge the gaps in available health care and the knowledge base of healthy lifestyles among minorities through education, research, and advocacy. 

The road of life Lori Baker travels has not always been smooth, but it has always led her to interesting places. When she was a teenager, newly married, and recently a mother, she and her husband sold everything they had, removed the backseat of their 1969 Dodge Charger to make room for a makeshift bed, and hit the road. From Michigan they headed south, stopped off in Texas, traveled through Oklahoma, and ended up in Wichita, Kansas. It was fun for a time, but when the money ran out and the marriage fell apart, Lori went home to Michigan and started over. 

What do you get when you mix small business know-how with a sweet toothand sprinkle in a little family love? Rita Girl's Boutique Bakery, in downtown Grand Rapids. Founder Micki Ackerman and pastry chef Maria Tornga (aka Micki's niece) are whipping up treats West Michigan can't turn down, and they're doing it with style. 

When they had their first child, Christy Malone and her husband diapered their newborn the same way hundreds of thousands of parents do (multiple times) everyday—with a disposable. And like many parents, Christy didn't do any research on the substances that are used to produce and make up the diapers. It wasn't until she noticed strange, clear beads stuck to her second child's leg that she began to ask questions.

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