MARQUETTE - The Marquette Lions Club has been holding fundraisers for causes on every scale for decades.
They've helped offer local eye health screenings, given out hundreds of pairs of glasses and recently held a dinner that raised $2,000 for the Marquette Police Department in their quest to replace their current drug-sniffing dog, Nero, with two more dogs.
And though their newest fundraiser also focuses on dogs, these pooches won't be police dogs. They'll be providing a different sort of service.
Leader dog in training Jazzie lays underneath the table, waiting for her trainer to let her know it’s time to leave. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
The MLC is hosting a Kick Ball Tournament Sunday, April 22, begining at 10 a.m. at the Kaufman Sports Complex off Hawley Street the proceeds of which will be given to Leader Dogs for the Blind, an organization that provides guide dogs to people who are blind or otherwise visually impaired.
The tournament is free to any spectators who wish to watch the tournament and learn more about Leader Dogs.
One MLC member in particular is working to pull the whole thing together.
Northern Michigan University junior elementary education major and MLC member Sarah Juday said she wanted to organize an event that would appeal to a younger crowd and thought a kickball tournament fit that bill nicely.
"I relate to the younger demographic," Juday said. "It started out just at NMU, people like to play kickball for fun. Now it's kind of snowballed into this huge thing."
Being the youngest member of the MCL, Juday is hoping to show other young people how being a part of the Lion's Club can be a very fulfilling volunteer opportunity.
Juday began her work with the MCL as a part of NMU's Superior Edge program, which requires a certain amount of volunteer work on the part of its participants. Juday chose to volunteer her time with the MLC.
"I just fell in love with the people," Juday said.
And the MLC seems to feel the same way.
"She's an extraordinary student," said Maureen Jenson, also an MLC member. "She's kind of taken the ball - no pun intended - and run with it ... We adopted (Sarah) a year and a half ago and she wanted to head up a fundraiser to get college kids more involved in serving the community."
That goals seems to have been met, with 9 teams participating in the tournament.
Also present at the tournament will be Marquette resident Mary Sinclair and her puppy-in-training, Jazzie.
Sinclair has been a volunteer puppy raiser for Leader Dogs for a number of years. Jazzie is her fifth puppy, all of whom she has been provided with by the Leader Dogs school in downstate Rochester Hills.
"We socialize it, teach it some of the things it needs to do," Sinclair said, adding that once the puppy is a year old, it is returned to the school for further training. "It's kind of exciting to know that they help. My first dog, Glacier, is in Canada. It's exciting to know that they're out there, helping people."
The Lions Club and Leader Dogs have a rich history together, with Leader Dogs actually founded by three Detroit-area Lions Clubs members.
"It's such a great cause," Juday said. "It costs so much and if we can do something to help, it's worth it."
Juday said it takes a lot of financial backing to train the dogs properly and provide them to loving homes.
"We're hoping to make this an annual event," she added.
Anyone wishing to donate to the event or to become a sponsor should contact Juday at email@example.com.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.