Saving manatees, one step at a time

Annual fundraiser runs May 16 at Lake St. Clair Metropark

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published May 6, 2015

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Running to secure the future of an aquatic mammal that can most closely be observed 1,500 miles from here has nonetheless become a Michigan tradition.

And it’s all thanks to a L’Anse Creuse High School teacher.

Lesley Argiri, a biology teacher at LCHS in Harrison Township, is the reason why more than 1,000 people are expected to meet at Lake St. Clair Metropark on May 16 for the 12th annual Save the Manatee 5K Run, 2 Mile Fun Walk and Mini Manatee Mile.

The popular grassroots-born race benefits Save the Manatee Club, an award-winning international nonprofit conservation and manatee welfare organization based in Maitland, Florida.

As race director, Argiri has raised approximately $100,000 over the years for Save the Manatee, an organization that she got involved with 12 years ago.

“I do it because I feel I am doing something positive for the Earth and I love manatees,” Argiri said. “I also want to promote health and fitness in the community. We have three elementary schools (South River, Tenniswood and Lobbestael) and one middle school (L’Anse Creuse Middle School South) that have started run clubs to prepare for this event.”

Each year, she recruits her ninth- through 12th-grade students to volunteer with the community to make the race more successful than the last one.

“I love manatees, and I know there are a lot of Michiganders who feel the same way I do, so it makes perfect sense to help manatees whether you live in Michigan or anywhere else — not just in Florida,” she said.

New this year for manatee fans everywhere is the Save the Manatee 5K Virtual Run. For the first time, people from around the world will get the opportunity to participate in a virtual run that helps raise funds for Florida’s endangered manatees. The virtual race can be completed anywhere: run a favorite trail, stroll the neighborhood, jog on a treadmill, or kayak in support of manatees. Registration includes a manatee T-shirt, a race bib, and a finisher’s medal.

Each race participant, including four-legged canine friends, receives finishing medals. A newly designed 2015 race T-shirt is included with each entry fee. Manatee medals are awarded to the top three finishers in the 5K, as well as trophies for male and female overall and masters’ winners. The 5K is scored using the ChronoTrack B-Tag, and the Mini Mile and 2 Mile Walk are clock-timed. The entry fee does not include the park entrance fee of $7 per vehicle.

Stacey DuFord, from “Bobby & Stacey in the Morning” on 104.3 WOMC-FM in Southfield,  will be the master of ceremonies at this year’s race.

“I love people who run for a cause,” said DuFord. “And I have a soft spot for animals, especially those that are endangered. I may never get to see a real manatee, but I want to make sure they are around for others to see.”

Cora Berchem, Save the Manatee Club’s multimedia specialist, will be back again this year with Hope, the giant inflatable manatee. Berchem will be stationed at a Save the Manatee education table, where race participants can pick up free calendars and adopt one of 35 real manatees living in Florida.

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

To register and for more information about the virtual race, go to www.hughesregistrationservices.com/races/2015SaveManatee/signup.php. To learn more about manatees and the Club’s Adopt-A-Manatee program, go to www.savethemanatee.org.

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