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Juggling Act: Friends — and divas — help Bloomfield Hills widow 'dare' to live

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

It’s one thing to push yourself to try something new. It’s another to have an entire group of cheerleaders encouraging you and holding your hand as you leap out of your comfort zone into new experiences. 

For Sheri Hunter of Birmingham, that group of cheerleaders is called the “Dare Divas.” The four longtime friends, who met through church, are all about pushing themselves in bold new ways, from sky-diving and zip-lining to white-water rafting and hiking Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro (they fell  just short of reaching the summit).

Sheri Hunter, far left, and her three friends call themselves the Dare Divas. Their goal is to constantly push themselves to try new experiences that push them out of their comfort zone. In December, they swam with dolphins at Discovery Cove in Orlando.

Hunter’s “Dare Divas” played a huge role in helping her through the biggest challenge of her life: the sudden death of her husband, Mannard, from a heart attack in 2012.

Now, Hunter, 53, a marketing professional, has written a book about the power of friendship and her journey through grief. “Daring to Live: How the Power of Sisterhood and Taking Risks Can Jump-Start Your Joy” (Baker Books, $22.99) is a memoir about the  role friendship can play in getting you through life’s darkest moments. It hit stores Tuesday. 

Hunter remembers telling Mannard years ago, as they scrambled to raise their two kids, that she craved a connection beyond being a mom and wife. She was hoping to make some new friends.

Soon, through the Christian Tabernacle Church, she found her Dare Divas — Brenda, Angenette and Mia — and their adventures cover the gamut. 

Hunter said too many people wait to develop friendships rather than initiate them.

“You never know that you need a friend until you need a friend,” said Hunter. “You never recognize the importance of building a support system until you actually need them. I’m hoping people see that. For me, it was important.” 

Studies have found how powerful female friendships truly are. Several have shown that female friends can help with everything from fighting breast cancer to boosting levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin. 

Beyond friendship, Hunter hopes her book inspires people to step outside their comfort zones in their own way.

“What I’m hoping more than anything is that people don’t feel like they have to jump off a cliff or climb a mountain,” she said. “For me, it’s symbolic. Some people will never want to do those things. That doesn’t make them meek or weak. But they have something inside of them, something they do want to do that’s scary. It may be going back to school when you have three kids.” 

And what’s next for the Dare Divas? They’re looking beyond adventure to do something deeper, Hunter says. They may pursue something with volunteering next or advocating for a cause.

Hunter says anyone can be a Dare Diva — men included.

“I’m just a little black girl from Detroit who grew up with little,” she said. “Now everybody wants to be a Dare Diva!... We’re hoping people will see that we’re more alike than we’re not and we all have those areas that we need to operate outside our comfort zone.”