The Spring Lake Park Lions Club got some very special visitors for lunch June 21 at Lakeside Lions Park.
Mark and Debbie Mansell of La Center, Wash., briefly grabbed a bite to eat and visited with local Lions club members before continuing their June 15-July 8 48 states in 24 days tour to raise money for Leader Dogs for the Blind.
Lions club members started Leader Dog for the Blind in 1929 so that those who cannot see have a guide dog to lead the way. For the past 74 years, this nonprofit organization has provided independent mobility to more than 14,500 people free of charge.
The Lions clubs from Spring Lake Park and Maple Lake, as well as the regional District 5M7 Lions organization, chipped in some money to donate $2,250 to the fundraiser, according to Spring Lake Park Lions Club member Norm Kelzenberg, district governor for 5M7. The group donated around $1,000 last year as well.
Tom Fiecke, second vice district governor for 5M7 and past chairperson of the Leader Dogs for the Blind committee, said “it means a lot” that Mark and Debbie stopped by Spring Lake Park on their long trip. The Spring Lake Park Lions Club members grilled lunch for the Mansells and about eight others who had joined them on the ride.
“I think it’s fantastic. What a great opportunity to serve these guys,” said Steve Linder, who will soon be president of the Spring Lake Park Lions Club and is also chairperson of the District 5M7 Can Do Canines initiative that provides service dogs for people who are physically disabled.
Mark Mansell joined the local Lions club in La Center, Wash., a decade ago and his wife Debbie signed up six years ago. Although they personally do not know anyone who is blind, they heard a lot about the quality work this organization does and wanted to help raise money so that it can continue to provide this needed service.
Mark rode his bicycle for 3,500 miles over 52 days last summer between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Debbie joined him for a few legs of the trip, but wanted to be part of the whole ride this year, which will amount to approximately 10,000 miles. The zig zag ride is about 9,100 miles for the trip that started in La Center and ends in Temecula, Calif., but they will have another 900 miles to get home to the state of Washington after the ride is over.
Mark initially planned to go on his cross country bicycle trip just for a personal challenge, but when folks with Leader Dogs for the Blind heard about the trip, they asked to sponsor the ride and make it a fundraiser. His initial goal was to raise $35,000, but he raised over $100,000 last year.
Although the Mansells each have a few years of Lions club experience under their belts, visiting with other members across the country and helping out with this worthwhile cause has made them see Lions clubs in a whole new way.
“We feel like we’re ambassadors for Leader Dogs for the Blind,” Debbie said. “What a difference it makes. We’ve met so many wonderful people.”
The Spring Lake Park Lions Club has an active membership. According to Pete Yelle, whose term as president is coming to an end, its members sort through donated eyeglasses each month that are sent overseas to people who cannot afford to buy glasses. It has a Leos youth group at Spring Lake Park High School and recently participated in Spring Lake Park’s Tower Days festivities.
To find out more about the Spring Lake Park Lions Club, call 763-780-1619.
Eric Hagen is at