‘I trekked the U.P.’: Lions raising funds for pediatric cancer patients through fitness campaign

Christine Smith, chairperson of the District 10 Lions Clubs’ Childhood Cancer initiative, finishes a day of snowshoeing as part of the Lions’ ‘I Trekked the U.P.’ campaign, a fundraiser designed to raise money for pediatric cancer patients in the Upper Peninsula while promoting personal physical fitness. (Photo courtesy of Christine Smith)

ENGADINE — If you’re trying to stay active during the pandemic, you can now do so for a good cause.

The District 10 Lions Clubs of the Upper Peninsula have created a new event titled ‘I Trekked the U.P.,’ an effort in support of Upper Peninsula families who have a child battling cancer.

The event challenges the public to achieve personal bests by means of walking, running, biking, skiing, snowshoeing or other recreational activities while making a monetary donation of your choice to benefit pediatric cancer patients in the U.P.

Christine Smith, chairperson of the District 10 Lions Childhood Cancer program and creator of the event, said the need for funds is more prominent this year, with the organization having identified 19 U.P. families battling the disease.

“This serves as a fundraiser for the families,” she said. “Kids and families in the U.P. have more challenges in meeting their needs than a family in an urban area would.

“The idea was that maybe we can pick what our fitness challenges are in order to help these people have a better life and make things easier for them. With ‘I Trekked the U.P.,’ we’re trying to get fit while at the same time helping kids and families in our communities. That’s the motivation.”

Individuals are encouraged to make their own fitness plan with any recreational activity of their choice by using the printable “Trek and Track” log sheet on the program’s website, www.uplionsserve.org. Once a fitness plan is in place, individuals can choose to donate an amount of their choice every time a fitness goal is achieved.

For example, you can choose to donate $1 for every mile logged in your activity, or another set amount.

“You can set it up however you want to set it up,” Smith said. “Even if you just want to pay 1, every dollar helps. If you want to donate more, that’s good too. We’ve had a couple of Lions Clubs challenge each other to see who can beat who in total miles.”

Those who donate $25 or more will receive a Childhood Cancer facemask and bandana, but Smith reiterates that every dollar counts and will go toward helping U.P. families through the most common obstacles those families face when battling cancer.

“First and foremost, it’s about giving that money to families so they have it for travel, medical bills, food and household expenses,” she said. “I can tell you right off hand that of the three families last year, a pandemic year, one parent had to quit their job to travel with their child to receive treatment.

Smith added that virtual fundraising is the future, and the Lions Clubs are considering keeping the website open to use for its other initiatives down the road.

“The Lions’ No. 1 thing is to fundraise,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about, serving people in our community. A lot of the clubs aren’t meeting or fundraising (due to COVID-19), so this is a different way to do it. Connecting with these (childhood cancer) families, I’ve realized they’re all a generation or two behind me. This is the future. Virtual fundraising is the way and we’re going to see how this works.

“There could be other Lions (Clubs) initiatives joining in on www.uplionsserve.org. We could put our diabetes initiative on there or we could do a fundraiser for hearing or hunger because those are all initiatives the Lions support. Those are future plans, it doesn’t have to stop with this one fundraiser.”

The District 10 Lions Clubs continue to partner with several national nonprofit organizations to bring ease and comfort to pediatric cancer patients in the U.P., including ‘Maggie’s Wigs 4 Kids,’ ‘Kids Kicking Cancer’ and ‘Camp Quality.’

Maggie’s Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan provides wigs and other services to children and young adults dealing with hair loss due to cancer, burns or other serious illnesses. 17 U.P. salons are now registered in the Maggie’s Wigs 4 Kids program, according to Smith.

Kids Kicking Cancer, based in downstate Southfield, was founded in 1999 at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. The now-global organization teaches martial arts as a therapeutic to over 7,000 children battling life-threatening illnesses in 90 hospitals and program locations spread across seven countries. The program is free to children’s cancer patients and their families here in the U.P. through fundraising efforts from the District 10 Lions Clubs and a $7,500 grant from the Graymont Community and Economic Development fund out of Lake Superior State University.

Camp Quality is a global program which hosts up to week-long summer residence camps for pediatric cancer patients and their siblings. Four camps currently reside in the Lower Peninsula, however one is in the works for Bay Cliff Health Camp in the fall.

The original plan was to have a Camp Quality of some sort this spring, but COVID-19 pushed plans back.

“Our goal is September 2021 now,” Smith said. “We just talked with Bay Cliff and Camp Quality, and there’s no question in our mind that the Lions Clubs, Camp Quality and Bay Cliff are going to do these camps, 150 committed. This is going to happen. COVID is kind of out of your control, and we’re dealing with immunocompromised kids anyway, which puts another factor into it. We’re having another meeting to talk about our plans (next week), and for now we’re just going to jeep moving forward.”

The ‘I Trekked the U.P.’ event is slated to go on from now through March. Should it be successful, the campaign could be extended into the spring and summer months as the door opens for more recreational activities as the snow melts.

“We could take a hiatus for a month and when springtime starts and people can swim, kayak or canoe, we may be able to start something different,” Smith said. “Not every family of the 19 is accepting or needing our money, but there are some families that really do need it. $8,500 for example doesn’t last very long. It’s a constant fundraiser.”

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14 behind car accidents, making cancer the leading disease-related cause of death.

Lions Clubs International is the largest service organization in the world with over 1.35 million members and 46,000 clubs spread across 206 countries.

If you know a U.P. child or family battling with pediatric cancer and needs financial assistance, call Smith at 313-682-8900.

For more information on ‘I Trekked the U.P.,’ or to make a donation, visit www.uplionsserve.org. For more information on the District 10 Lions Clubs, visit www.district10lions.org.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is rspitza@miningjournal.net.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today