Former Detroit Lion now partner at Sunset Shores resort

February 14, 2019

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

The National Football League’s former wide receiver Jeff Chadwick is now a partner with Kristen Blackburn in the management of Sunset Shores Up North, a four-cottage resort on the edge of Stevenson Lake south of Clare.

His cousin Mike Klassa of Novi bought the business, located at 942 Carroll Drive on the east side of the lake, from Vivian (Blackburn) Lane in 2016. Kristen has managed the business for the past 6 years. Jeff has been part of the team for two and a half years. Kristen called Jeff, “My right hand man. He helps with fundraising events.”

Football was his life, Jeff said. “Being from Michigan and able to pay for the Lions. How lucky I was.” He continued, “I started playing in fifth grade for the ‘Dearborn Lions’.”

His talent, and love of the game eventually led to becoming a member of the Detroit Lions, where he played for six years. From there he moved to the Seattle Sea Hawks for three years and then finished up his ten year football career with the LA Rams.

During his career, Jeff totaled 292 pass receptions for 4,546 yards and 27 touchdowns. His first year with the Lions he was named 1st Team All-Rookie when the Lions claimed the National Football Conference Central Division title.

Jeff is a graduate of Grand Valley State University, where he earned five letters in football and track from 1979-82. Additionally, Jeff held the school high jump and 400 meter dash records and was inducted into the Grand Valley Hall of Fame in 1993.

This year he will be the “2019 Special Guest” at the annual “A Northern Tradition” fundraiser for Mid Michigan College on Sunday, April 14th.

Just 32 at the time he left the NFL, and living with his family in California for eight years, he owned a business there and in his spare time carried his love of the game over into playing semi-pro rugby for the Huntington Beach Unicorns Football Club. “Rugby is like football without all the padding. I finally stopped playing when I realized I was getting injured more often than when I played pro football,” he said with a grin.

He moved back to Michigan in 2012 then up to the Clare area in 2016.

Jeff Chadwick and Kristen Blackburn brave a snowy day to pose with the sign at Sunset Shores

Jeff Chadwick and Kristen Blackburn brave a snowy day to pose with the sign at Sunset Shores

Moving to Clare was like coming home for Jeff. Now single with grown children, he lives in his mother’s vacation home near Sunset Shores.

The middle son of the five sons of John and Delores Chadwick, he spent his summers on family property at Stevenson Lake with his grandparents, siblings and cousins, staying in what was once a famous “speakeasy barn” that his great grandparents originally operated as “Barney’s.” The barn was eventually renovated into living quarters for the whole family by his grandparents. Jeff said the now abandoned barn is on property still owned by the family.

That 85-year-old barn has a long history, once attracting many patrons including members of the famous Purple Gang, before becoming a Chadwick family get-away.

Jeff said renovations to the barn are underway. “We talked about tearing it down, but too many have great memories of the place,” he said.

The beautiful view of Stevenson Lake from Sunset Shores

The beautiful view of Stevenson Lake from Sunset Shores

The cottages have been a fixture at Stephenson Lake for 85 years. Kristen said the cottages, first named “Cookies Cabins,” was renamed Sunset Shores, then Cottages at Sunset Shores and now Sunset Shores Up North.

Summer activities at Sunset Shores include boating, swimming, horseshoes, volleyball and picnics. They also have a recreation room open during the summer for family get-togethers, meetings and retreats. Their website says, “Our cottages are perfect for a family vacation, golf outings, fall color tours, mid-winter breaks, romantic getaways, retreats and more.”

Their four themed cabins –the Garden Cottage, the Up North Cottage, the Golf Cottage and the Fishing Cottage – all sleep six and offer a unique rustic style.

Former NFL pro Jeff Chadwick is now partners with Kristen Blackburn in managing Sunset Shores Up North at Stevenson Lake.

Former NFL pro Jeff Chadwick is now partners with Kristen Blackburn in managing Sunset Shores Up North at Stevenson Lake.

Winter certainly doesn’t stop the fun at Sunset Shores in Clare. The cottages at Stephenson Lake are available year round for summer fun or a winter enthusiast’s base for snowmobiling, skiing, hiking, ice skating and ice fishing on the frozen lake or just the perfect place for a cozy winter get away.

They also sponsor many events in the area, including being involved and helping out at Clare Irish Festival activities.

Jeff has been responsible for several fundraisers and special events at Sunset Shores, including a recent benefit for patients with ITP (Immune thrombocytopenia), a rare blood disorder that causes uncontrolled and wide-spread bruising. The event raised funds for the PDSA, (Platelet Disorder Support Association).

Another recent event was a Detroit Lions Activity Day last May for Big Brothers – Big Sisters. “We are in the planning stages to make this an annual event open to the community,” Kristen said.

Jeff keeps in touch with former NFL players. “They are very helpful in supporting local charities,” he said. He said he is also planning a Youth Football Camp this summer (hopefully in July) with former players as coaches for a two-day session for 14-15 year-olds and another session for 15-16 year olds. “The players will be coaches, with assistant coaches and volunteers,” he said. “Proceeds from that event will go to the Emerald Isle Recreation Complex in Clare.

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