Hurley Lions Club teams with Iron County youth
Pancake Day, held on Palm Sunday for more than 35 years, serves as a fundraiser for both the Lions Club and the camp. Lions prepare the food and wash dishes while camp counselors and some campers act as hosts and servers, seating guests, bringing beverages and food and busing tables. Lions also purchase and donate the food supplies.
"We work together on this," Lions President Jerry Pisani said. He said the partnership works well because it fits with the Lions mission. "I think it's a very good idea because the Lions Club supports many other functions in the community. The club's primary functions are for sight, hearing and youth."
They split the proceeds, with the Lions guaranteeing at least $600 to go toward the camp. The breakfast was well on its way to that goal, having served just over 200 hungry attendees around 11 a.m. with an hour and a half more to go.
Neil Klemme, youth development agent for Iron County University of Wisconsin-Extension and an organizer of the camp, said donations from area clubs and businesses is an integral part of camp operations. "I'd say 65 percent of our camp is funded through donations from the Lions Club, Rotary, local businesses and anybody who has had kids there once, or went when they were kids," he said.
The camp is open to Iron County students and 4-H group members in third through sixth grades. Donations help defray the cost for campers, including those who may not otherwise be able to attend. With the contributions, youth can attend the camp for 25 to 30 percent of what they would pay without them.
"We also give out $500 in 'camperships,'" Klemme said. Camperships can fund about two-thirds of the reduced cost.
While the breakfast has been offered for more than 35 years, the camp aspect was added later. "A number of years ago, we started donating to the youth camp because there was a number of kids that were unable to attend due to financial restraints," Pisani said.
Many of this year's 27 counselors were helping out, gaining community service and hands-on experience that can help them later in life, Klemme said. "My focus for the counselors is that camp is a job and they should treat it like a job," he said. "Something like this is part of the job. It makes a more well-rounded thing for them."
Counselors had to submit resumes and cover letters and go through an interview process to be selected. Klemme said in the last few years he has seen a shift in attitude in the counselors. In the past, many interviewees said they were coming to camp to spend time with friends, but this year, not a single candidate gave that as their reason for applying.
Klemme said they all wanted to help offer the same experience to campers they enjoyed as youth. "They get more out of it than just coming to camp and hanging out with their friends," he said.
Pisani said the kids' good attitudes were very apparent to attendees. "Klemme has done an excellent job with the youth here," he said. "They're very professional in seating the people. We got more compliments from people coming out."
Pisani added the club appreciates that the youth were helping earn the money they'll end up using.
"What's unique about this is we're donating money to the youth, but they're working for it," he said. "That's the thing we really like, because it's showing that they're taking part. ... It's a learning experience for the kids."
Pancake Day originally began as a spaghetti dinner, but the club changed it to a breakfast due to popular demand. About 250 people are fed each year, and Pisani was very happy with Sunday's turnout. "We're expecting another record year," he said.
A new addition this year was a silent auction table with prizes "donated by individuals and merchants in the community," Pisani said. A 50/50 raffle also helped bring funds in.
He said the best part of offering the breakfast is supporting the area. "It shows that the Lions Club is giving back to the community," Pisani said. The club will use their portion of the proceeds to support ongoing efforts like offering vision screenings at local schools and assisting with payment for youth and adults who can't afford glasses.
Support from the community definitely helps the success of the event, Pisani said. "I'd like to thank all the people that contributed to the silent auction raffle, and I'd especially like to thank the Liberty Bell Chalet for opening their facility and allowing us to do it here. They've been very good," he said.