NEGAUNEE - The Upper Peninsula Luge Club is fundraising to send its four top athletes to compete in the the 19th Annual World Championships in Naturbahn Luge in Italy.
Based in Negaunee, the club needs to raise $2,000 by Jan. 12 to cover the athletes' training, competition and travel costs. The four athletes who will be going are Leisel Demeuse, 16, Derek Rogers, 15, Daryn Carter, 15, and Derek Carter, 15. Tammy Wills, the naturbahn - or natural track - luge coach at Lucy Hill, said by helping out people will be supporting a dream that many of the kids never thought possible.
"Night after night they schlepp their 35 pound sleds on their back up the hill again and again," Wills said. "It's not for the fame or the glory, people barely know we exist nestled in our back corner of the woods. It's purely for the love of the sport and it shows on their faces after they have a good run."
A member of the Upper Peninsula Luge Club makes a run down the Lucy Hill Naturbahn Luge Track in Negaunee recently. The club is raising funds to help pay for an upcoming trip to Europe. (Upper Peninsula Luge Club photo)
According to Wills, the United States Luge Association was approached by the Federation Internationale De Luge De Course this fall to see if it had any competitors skilled enough for international competition. If so, the federation was willing to help sponsor a team from the United States to travel to Europe to train and compete in the world championships. The federation confirmed the clubs travel plans the day before Thanksgiving.
"We had one more thing to be thankful for, but we also had our work cut out for us," Wills said. "The short notice we received for this upcoming trip has given us little time to prepare and budget the needed funds."
Wills said because she will be traveling to Austria Dec. 10 through Dec. 17 for an international instructors and judges course returning just a week before, the holidays it leaves the club little time for major fundraising activities.
"Therefore, our fundraising efforts will be limited to direct solicitations and trying to raise awareness of our cause," Wills said.
The athletes and coach will fly into Munich, Germany, and from there travel to Vols am Schlern, where they will train. Then on Jan. 23 they will leave for Dueutschnofen, Italy, where they will compete in the world championships.
"We also hope to visit Torggler Rodelbau, the premier natural track luge sled builder in the world," Wills said. "It will be a great experience for the athletes to see how and where their sleds are built."
Donations can be sent to UPLC, P.O. Box 931, Marquette, MI 49855. Anyone wanting their donation to be tax deductible can write a check to the U.S. Luge Association and put "Natural Track Training Fund" on the memo line and send it to USLA, 57 Church St., Lake Placid, NY 12946.
"The athletes that are going have developed their skills over the years by working hard and putting in long hours of training. They have supported each other and younger athletes just learning the sport," Wills said. "They embody what the term good sportsmanship means and they will represent the USA well, both on and off the track. I am proud to be their coach and to be a part of making their dreams come true."
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401.