Lions Have a Doggone Good Time Lions in Colchester, Connecticut, have a serious case of puppy love. Why wouldn’t they? For the last 17 years, their fall Pumpkins ‘n’ Pooches festival has been the single biggest one-day fundraiser they sponsor. “Our net earnings average around $5,500 each year,” says Charlene Picard, who began organizing the event only a year after she joined the club. “Charlene is passionate about Lions and her dogs, and she and her husband, Paul, [also a Lion] have raised 11 dogs for guide dog schools since 1993, including her current puppy, Wanda, from Freedom Guide Dogs in upstate New York,” Marie Salpietro points out. “Not only does this event raise a significant amount of money for our charitable efforts, but also the exposure for our club is incredible. It’s held on the town green and residents of Colchester look forward to it year after year.” Lions display brochures and information about their 103-member club as well as promoting other district activities. “We had representation from Freedom Guide Dogs, Independence Guide Dogs and Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Search and rescue dogs were there as well,” says Salpietro. Lions operate two food concession stands. “We make money on vendor fees and food sales,” explains Picard. Last year, there were 70 vendors selling commercial goods as well as arts and crafts. There are costumed and non-costumed categories for dogs, who happily wander the grounds with their owners. “Pumpkins ‘n’ Pooches is a celebration of our relationships with dogs. Although you may occasionally hear dogs barking, people are really good about keeping their dogs under control, and we’ve never had an all-out altercation,” she emphasizes. There are contests for the best-costumed pooch and best kisser, waggiest tail, furriest, biggest ears, best trick and smallest and largest. There’s even a Frisbee and freestyle contest that Picard describes as “dancing with your dog.” The contests aren’t without a bit of doggie drama. “Sometimes a dog gets stage fright and the handler is doing his or her darndest to get their dog to kiss them or wag their tails.” One year, Picard recalls, “a man with a yellow lab squatted down to get ready for his dog’s smooch. The dog jumped up, gave him a hug and knocked him to the ground, covering his face with kisses. He was the winner hands down—no question!” The Wheel Story Bedford Township Lions in Michigan sleep better at night knowing that because of their actions children and babies are sleeping safely in their own beds. They support a local program that has so far donated more than 2,000 twin beds or cribs since a single mother asked a church 12 years ago for a bed. After fulfilling that first request, the church established a program to help other children in need sleep securely. The nonprofit Bed Race to Aid Children began six years ago to help buy beds for Monroe County children in need. It costs $200 to register a bed for the competition. The organization provides discarded hospital beds, usually decorated by contestants for maximum spectator amusement. Last year, Lions beat more than 40 other teams to the finish line with a time of 45:87 seconds. Lion Garnet Francis, wearing a rented lion costume, rode atop the decorated conveyance pushed by Lion Toby Sass and three friends. Francis is game to keep competing. “I’ve always ridden on the bed in costume. I got the honor because I’m the smallest Lion in the club,” she says. The race, chaired by Lion Kim Hooper, raised more than $30,000 in 2012. “It’s hard to believe there are children in our community who are sleeping on the floor. Our club donates $3,000 annually to this bed program,” says Francis, club treasurer.
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