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Longboat Key Tuesday, Apr. 9, 2019 3 years ago

St. Mary Men's Club lends veterans helping paw

The club has raised enough money to provide at least one scholarship to a veteran guide dog at Southeastern Guide Dogs.
by: Katie Johns Community Editor

The St. Mary, Star of the Sea, Catholic Church Men’s Club is lending its paws to Southeastern Guide Dogs.

Through recent fundraisers, including its annual February golf tournament, the group has raised money to provide at least one veteran guide dog scholarship.

Southeastern Guide Dogs receives no government funding, meaning its $11.4 million budget comes from outside donations, said Larissa Daigle, director of philanthropy for Southeastern Guide Dogs.

The idea for the Men’s Club to support Southeastern Guide Dogs came in December when Rick Stauffer and Lenny DiStefano were kicking around ideas with Chuck Sobieck, the president of the club.

Stauffer he wanted to “champion a cause and change a life.”

So he did some research, and liked the idea of helping veterans.

Ten years ago, Stauffer read “Until Tuesday,” a book about an army officer in Afghanistan who returns home after suffering a head injury. He was struggling with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and got a dog named Tuesday, so when Stauffer found Southeastern Guide Dogs, he knew what he wanted to champion.

“It gave him someone to come home to, gave him someone to take care of,” Stauffer said of the officer in the book.

He brought the idea of giving to Southeastern Guide Dogs to members of the Men’s Club. Stauffer told them he didn’t want to change any of the donations they normally do. He just wanted to add this cause.

As several members are veterans, the idea was met warmly.

During the church’s rummage sale in March, a representative from Southeastern Guide Dogs was on site with one of the dogs, Astro. Stauffer estimates that during the sale, $3,116 was raised. In addition, a parishioner has offered $2,500. Add in the golf tournament money and a match from the Heroes Council, and they are on the path to providing at least one dog with a scholarship.

Daigle said the money the Men’s Club donates will go directly to the programs that support veterans, specifically to provide a guide dog for one.

“It’s a wonderful program, and we really will change a life,” Stauffer said.

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I’m Katie. I’m the Longboat Observer community editor, which means I cover all people, places and things pertaining to Longboat Key. I graduated from the University of Missouri in 2016 with degrees in journalism and Spanish. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 364.

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