A Grand Finale for the Grand Tour

Published in: Update - Issue 3 - 2017 »   

Participants of the final Grand Tour pose for a group picture in
Mackinaw City before starting their 3-day endurance ride.

After 7,000 miles and many aching muscles, the Grand Tour.ORGanization had their final endurance watercraft ride on Lake Michigan this past August. The annual fundraiser began with a few personal watercraft enthusiasts who wanted to earn “bragging rights” for completing a 350-mile ride, and developed over 20 years into a “summer family” that together supported Leader Dog. This family grew to include the riders, land support crew, local Lions clubs and Leader Dog puppy raisers. The Grand Tour has always been an endurance ride, not a race. The riders end each day together, making a grand entrance riding into the evening’s location as a group. This year’s final destination, the Holland Marina, proved to be difficult to reach when the riders encountered rough waters. After everyone was safely on shore, they celebrated with a banquet which included awards for the top fundraisers.

Grand Tour Event Director Michael LaBelle has been involved since the ride’s inception in 1997; he took over as director in 1999. Though he was unable to participate in the entire final ride, Michael hopped on a watercraft to lead the group into Holland one last time. At the banquet he presented Leader Dog with a donation of $19,500 from this year’s event. This brings their grand total to over $344,000 raised for Leader Dog!

The Grand Tour.ORGanization has had a tremendous impact on Leader Dog. In honor of their commitment, they will have permanent recognition on our campus—their name on a suite for dogs in training in the canine development center. The annual ride will be missed, but this group of dedicated riders and land support crew will always be a part of the Leader Dog community.