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Nominated by Jeff Dahnert
Length of Service:
40 hours per month for 30 years
February 7, 2014
Seventy five year old Don "Red Dog" Gardner is one of the most selfless people I know. He has dedicated the last 30 years of his life in a volunteer capacity to running a completely free community workout program in Lawrence, KS that has helped literally thousands of people to become healthier, more active and more fit. A former Marine and former officer with the Lawrence, KS police department, Red Dog started a free strength and conditioning program in 1984 to help high school athletes maintain their fitness during the summer. This has grown into a now year round endeavor, and is open to anyone. People from infants to elderly and from all walks of life and all stages of fitness and ability participate in not only the workouts, but also enjoy the socialization that has developed among the Dog Days "family." In fact, at any given workout session you are likely to see as many people over 60 years of age as you'll see under 20. The former being a group that can benefit the most from regular exercise and a common bond. Dog Days is truly multi-generational, and it's not uncommon to see three generations of a family working out together at one session!
Here is how Dog Days has worked for the past 30 years: Every single Tuesday and Thursday at 6am, year around, Red Dog himself leads participants through a 30-45 minute routine of stretching, calisthenics, running or walking, and climbing stairs, ramps, or bleachers. There is also an outdoor run every Saturday morning at 7:30 am, regardless of weather. Attendance is taken. If you attend a certain number of times over a designated period of time, you earn a free Dog Days tshirt. Free. It is all free. There is no cost to anyone, for anything. Red Dog himself solicits donations from local businesses to pay for the cost of the T shirts given to participants. T shirts are given out twice a year, and over 900 shirts are earned for the summer program! That number is staggering! The schedule above of Tuesday and Thursday at 6am is the year round schedule. For the 10 week long summer program, Red Dog leads this group four days a week, two times a day plus the Saturday run! I get tired just thinking about the work that this 75 year old man is doing on behalf of the Lawrence community!
Red Dog's Dog Days is a uniquely wonderful free community program, which wouldn't exist without the seemingly tireless efforts of Don and his wife Beverly Gardner. Beverly puts in just as many hours as Don does, if not more, volunteering her time to keep Dog Days running smoothly. She keeps the attendance records and coordinates a staff of all volunteer helpers to assist with checking in the participants. In fact, if she met the 65 year old age requirement, I'd be nominating her, too! In addition to running the program, they are always called upon by local groups to promote and support 5k and 10k charitable fundraising runs, to make public speeches and appearances, etc.
But Don's volunteer efforts aren't limited to his time spent leading Dog Days. He also works with the Boys and Girl's Club of Lawrence, the Ballard Community Services Center (a non-profit organization that provides an affordable, high quality early education program and essential basic life assistance for families and individuals in need) and Van-Go, Inc. (an arts-based social service agency that provides year-round after-school and summer job-training programs to high-needs and under-served youth, ages 14-21.) Don's true love is for improving the lives of kids. Almost any agency that is working to benefit the lives of young people is worthy of Don's time.
There are countless young people who have made better life choices because of the affect Don Gardner has had on their lives. There are countless adults whose lives have been saved because Don has provided an opportunity for fitness where none may have existed otherwise.
It is my absolute honor to nominate Dog "Red Dog" Gardner for this Salute to Senior Service award. I can promise you that you'd be hard pressed to find someone more deserving. Thank you.
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