Saving the manatee

Run/walk raises funds for, awareness of, endangered ‘sea cow’

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published May 13, 2014

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Support of Michigan’s first and only chapter of the Save the Manatee Club has grown exponentially in the past 11 years.

Maybe it’s because hurricanes, cold stress and red tide poisoning continue to be a threat to the manatees’ survival. Or maybe it’s because the rate of watercraft strikes, many of which lead to a painful death, have been on a steady increase.

Either way, L’Anse Creuse High School biology teacher Lesley Argiri is glad residents in her home state are taking notice.

Argiri is the founder of the Michigan Save the Manatee Club and director the of now 11th annual Save the Manatee 5k Run, which raises funds to helps further work protecting endangered manatees and their habitats in Florida, as well as supporting programs in other countries. 

In Harrison Township, Michigan, manatee fans will gather on May 17 for the Save the Manatee 5k Run, 2 Mile Fun Walk and Mini Manatee Mile at the Huron-Clinton Lake St. Clair Metropark.

“I’m always striving to grow the race and continue to improve it and make it fun for everyone,” says Argiri. “We had almost 1,200 runners and walkers last year. It’s absolutely thrilling to see so many people come out for the race to help such a worthy, dear-to-my-heart cause.”

Argiri’s efforts on the manatee’s behalf has raised a total to date of $86,500 for Save the Manatee Club, an award-winning international nonprofit conservation and manatee welfare organization based in Maitland, Florida. 

Funds aid with manatee research, rescue, rehabilitation and release efforts; education and public awareness projects; conservation work to protect manatees and their habitat; and programs in the United States, Central and South America, the Wider Caribbean, and West Africa.

The Save the Manatee Club was co-founded by singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet and former U.S. Senator and Florida Gov. Bob Graham to fund education projects that help protect manatees and their aquatic habitat, and the conservation, rescuing and rehabilitating of manatees.

Often referred to as “sea cows,” manatees inhabit shallow, marshy coastal areas and rivers of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, the Amazon Basin and West Africa.

Argiri engages her students, volunteers and community in all aspects of the race event, including volunteering on race day with sign-ins, setup and cleanup, raising funds, and spreading awareness.

South River Elementary School in Harrison Township started a Run Club a couple of years ago for fifth-graders.

The students practice six weeks leading up to the Save the Manatee race, where they use the Mini Manatee Mile as their culminating event. South River’s Physical Education teacher and Run Club Director, Jeremy Kozak, said he thoroughly enjoys the race. 

“This is an extremely well-run event each year we participate in it,” he said. “The kids have a blast,  and the smiles on their faces say everything.  Look for us again this year and many years to come.”

Students at Tenniswood and Lobbestael elementary schools and L’Anse Creuse Middle School-South also participate in the event.

Patrick Rose, Save the Manatee’s executive director, said efforts like Argiri’s have made a monumental impact on the future survival of the manatee.

“We can’t thank Lesley enough for all her hard work and devotion, and it’s very moving to see so many Michiganders supporting our mission of saving endangered manatees,” he said.

Early race registration before May 2 costs $20 for runners, $18 for walkers, and $15 for participants in the Mini Manatee Mile. Fees increase for late and race-day registrations. A newly designed 2014 race T-shirt is included with each entry fee. All those interested can register at the race website at Race participants also receive a registration packet of special items. A variety of trophies, medals, awards and door prizes can be won, with age group awards for 5k runners only, and finishing medals for Mini Mile participants. Manatee medals are awarded to the top three finishers in the 5k. The course is USATF certified, and the race is scored using the Chrono Track D-Tag. The Mini Mile and 2 Mile Walk are clock-timed. The entry fee does not include the park entrance fee of $7 per vehicle. Save the Manatee Club will also have an education table at the event, and participants are encouraged to participate in the Adopt-A-Manatee program.

To learn more about manatees and the Club’s Adopt-A-Manatee program, go to