Edwardsburg High School Leo Club raises funds for seeing eye dogs

EDWARDSBURG — On Saturday, four Edwardsburg High School students went to Rochester, Michigan to see the Leader Dog facility where dogs are trained from birth to be seeing eye dogs for the blind and the deaf. The trip was no ordinary visit, however.

The four students, sophomore Katie Welch, junior Bailey McGivern, junior Aubrey Eberlein, and Bridget Hilgerdork, all members of the Edwardsburg High School Leo Club, presented Leader Dogs for the blind with a check for $1,543.

The money was raised by the Leo Club in two weeks, and the four Leos who visited the Leader Dog facility raised the most money during the two-week fundraiser.

The Edwardsburg Leo Club, the junior arm of the Lions Club, was established seven years ago by Amy Anderson, who is currently the principal in another school district. Now under the direction of Tanda Stiffler, the club has grown in Edwardsburg, and for the 2018-2019 school year there are about 75 members, 55 of which are active participants. Just in the 2018 fall semester the club has finished nine projects.

“We participate in a multitude of different community organizations and charities,” McGivern said.

According to McGivern, the Leo Club has put forth significant effort toward helping the blind and other sensory impaired people. The fundraising project for Leader Dogs for the Blind was one project of the club accomplished for the 2018-2019 school year, and the club’s efforts will be recognized with an engraved brick, which will be placed in a special brick memorial area at the Leader Dog facility. The Leo Club also got to see which puppies it is sponsoring, one yellow lab and one German Shepherd.

“It’s important because we’re helping fund an organization that helps impaired people become more independent and confident,” McGivern said. “(Leader Dogs) is a nonprofit group, so donations are needed. We try to help as much as we can.”

Leader Dogs for the Blind charges nothing for their services. As exciting as the project was for the club, out of town charities are not the Leos’ only focus.

“We try to help everybody in the community with volunteer work, whether with the Christmas trees around Christmas time, or Our Lady of the Lake helping with the food packaging,” Welch said.

According to Welch, one of the Leos Club’s favored local projects is the Edwardsburg Food Pantry, located at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church. The local food pantry directly affects the Edwardsburg community, which is what many of the club members appreciate most.

“We’re giving back to our community and seeing how much of an impact we leave,” Eberlein said.

Participants say the membership in the Leo Club is mutually beneficial for the students who participate. It provides them with experience to put on resumes, a sense of pride in their community, and even a sense of inheritance and legacy. Welch’s grandfather is a member of the Lions Club, which is to her a cherished connection.

“My grandpa is part of the Lions, so I like to see everyone from high school and up being able to volunteer and help give back no matter  their age,” Welch said. “This afterschool group helps get me volunteer hours for my resume, but it helps me understand what goes on in community and why volunteers are needed to make things work,” Welch said.

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