Dowagiac Lions Club President Ron Behnke poses with the winners of this year’s White Cane Poster contest outside of Patrick Hamilton Elementary. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)
Dowagiac Lions Club President Ron Behnke poses with the winners of this year’s White Cane Poster contest outside of Patrick Hamilton Elementary. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Archived Story

Dowagiac Lions Club seeks community support

Published 8:00am Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Members of the Dowagiac Lions Club will stand vigilantly outside of local businesses this weekend, once again looking for the community support to help out a few neighbors in need.

The club is kicking off its annual White Cane charity fundraising event on Thursday, asking for donations that will be used to purchase eye glasses and hearing aids for local people without the means to afford them. Members with the club will stand outside stores from Thursday through Saturday, with the money
collected from cups hanging the eponymous white canes they carry.

On Monday morning, the local chapter honored the winners of its annual White Cane Posters contest, handing out cash rewards to the first, second and third place winners as well as the honorable mentions. The club holds the contest for the students of Patrick Hamilton Elementary every year, as a way to spread awareness of the fundraiser.

“The kids are always happy to be in each year, especially since they get something for it if they win,” said Ron Behnke, president of the local club.

Beginning in March, students can enter their drawings depicting a lion and white cane into the contest, Behnke said. This year, the club received around 40 submissions from students.

Winning the $30 first-place award was Carlee Gibson; winning the $20 second-place award was Jada Shields; winning the $15 third-place award was Maurice Davis.

The Dowagiac Lions and Patrick Hamilton have worked together for decades to help promote White Cane week,
Behnke said.

“My wife won it back in ’58, so students have been making the posters for a while,” he said.

Lions Club International has been assisting people with sight and hearing disabilities for more than 80 years. A member of the club is credited with the creation of the first white cane back in 1930, which signifies to others that a person is blind. Since then, members have held fundraisers and other events to raise awareness across the community.

The Dowagiac Lions typically raise around $1,000 during each White Cane week, Behnke said, with members collecting donations outside stores like Family Fare, Hardings and Hale’s. Last year, the club collected $1,400 worth of donations, which were used to support 12 local people in need.

“People around here always give whatever they can,” Behnke said. “They’re always good about that. If they see one us standing outside the store, they’ll give us something.”

Students receiving an honorable mention on Monday were:

Kassidy Godbey

Sara Gilmer

Lanie Gist

Elizabeth Walton

Arneal Lee

Gabby O’Konski

Haley Ottinger

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