HOLLAND — Don Kimble was finally on his way home.


After weeks in the hospital undergoing radiation treatment, the swimming coach from Holland was quietly returning home where he would have to remain isolated because of the coronavirus outbreak.


But Kimble still had a warm welcome waiting when he and his wife, Jan, pulled up to the house.


Dozens of signs decorated the yard and lined the driveway to guide his way to the house.


Kimble, 60, is battling metastatic melanoma. He had a spot removed on his chest in August, before having four lymph nodes removed.


“On March 5, he was showing signs of a stroke. Got him to the hospital and they found a tumor that had hemorrhaged in the area of the brain that controls movement on his right side,” Jan Kimble said.


It has been a long and painful battle since then as he was isolated in the hospital. Jan couldn’t be with him for much of the time and his children and grandchildren could not visit.


That made the welcome home even more meaningful.


“It was a shock to turn onto our street and see all the signs in our yard. It's encouraging to be reminded of all the people cheering me on,” Don Kimble said.


“Community support: It has been unbelievable to hear from so many former swimmers and families from Holland Christian, Holland and Byron Center to our current Davenport University family, area swim coaches, work families, church, neighbors, friends and family. We are blessed and so very grateful for the outpouring of love and support from our community.”


It was something former swim parent and family friend Shawnda Garcia came up with.


“Jillayne Everest and I were talking about what we could do for Don,” Garcia said. “I made a Facebook group and asked people to send notes or gas cards to Jan because she was driving back and forth so much. The signs were something to welcome him home and encourage him, but keeping it low-key. We knew it would be a tough transition.


“It was unbelievable when we found out. When it unfolded in the weeks that followed, it was always about support. This was our opportunity to honor Don and Jan as well, and all of the sacrifices they have made. ... I want to help without intruding and also lifting Don up. It is about helping however I can help.”


Kimble has been a swimming coach in West Michigan for more than 30 years. He led Holland High School swim teams to four state championships, while also winning two more at Holland Christian prior to that.


Kimble built the Michigan Lakeshore Aquatics club into a national powerhouse, based at Holland Community Aquatic Center before leaving to coach at Byron Center, then most recently Davenport University.


Along the way he has coached hundreds of swimmers, many who have gone on to swim in college.


Under Kimble’s tutelage, Taylor Garcia became the all-time record-holder for high school state championships in the state of Michigan. She went on to become an All-American at Michigan and was coaching with Kimble at Davenport this past season.


“It is something that can’t be measured. He has been such a mentor for me in and out of the pool. I had the awesome opportunity to coach alongside him at Davenport this year. To have those experiences on the other side of the sport has been really special,” Taylor Garcia said.


“He has helped me go as a person, as an athlete and a member of society. There are hundreds of athletes that would say that same thing. That is what makes his investment so special.”


Taylor Garcia started swimming for Kimble at age 11 and has seen his impact on the community. It meant a lot to her to see this gesture by people in the community to welcome him home.


“It is really great to see how the community has come together to offer support for him. He has been such a huge part of the community has impacted so many lives and invested in so many people. They really appreciate everything he has done for them,” she said.


Shawnda Garcia agreed.


“It is so heartwarming to see the support. Davenport swimmers put a video together for him and they were only with him less than a year. I was so reminded of his impact on everyone,” she said. “They are loved and supported by so many people.”


— Contact Sports Editor Dan D'Addona at Dan.D'Addona@hollandsentinel.com or 616-546-4276. Follow him on Twitter @DanDAddona and Facebook @Holland Sentinel Sports.