Archive for Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Governor to honor ‘Red Dog’

Don Gardner to receive ‘Hometown Health Hero’ honor at Thursday evening workout

August 8, 2006


Summer Dog Days

Red Dog's Dog Days is in its summer phase. (Video from 7-5-06). Enlarge video

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius announced today that Don "Red Dog" Gardner will receive the state's first Hometown Health Hero Award.

Gardner, a retired Lawrence police officer who has organized the Red Dog's Dog Days workouts for 23 summers at Kansas University's Memorial Stadium, will receive the award at the 6 p.m. Thursday workout at the stadium.

"Don Gardner and his commitment to helping Kansans maintain a regular physical activity schedule epitomizes the leadership and qualities that make a Hometown Health Hero," Sebelius said in the announcement released by her office. "Don's selfless gift of time and energy to the community of Lawrence is greatly appreciated."

Gardner and a group of volunteers conduct three 45-minute free activity workouts a day that draw hundreds of participants.

The 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday sessions bring area residents of all ages and activity levels to the stadium. The workouts include stretching, calisthenics and aerobic activity that varies each day.

Participants might find the 45-minute workout includes running up Campanile Hill backwards, scaling the steps south of Wescoe Hall or running the bleachers in the stadium all the way to the top - often in 100-degree heat.

Motivational speakers are also brought in during the summer, including several KU coaches. For example, longtime Lawrence radio personality Hank Booth spoke this morning and KU volleyball coach Ray Bechard spoke Monday and Mark Francis, KU soccer coach, spoke last week.

The session are twice a day in June and then three-times-a-day in July and early August.

The Governor's Council on Fitness established the Hometown Health Hero Award in support of the governor's Healthy Kansas initiative.

"The Governor and the Council seek to recognize the efforts of individuals across the state that have either had a significant impact upon their community or a great personal achievement in the areas of physical activity, promoting healthy diets or working to prevent tobacco use in Kansas," according to the Sebelius' office.

Since 1984, Dog Days has grown from six or seven athletes into a community event with an average attendance in the morning and evening of 450-500 individuals and an average of 150 people at noon. In June, Dog Days set a morning attendance record of 640 people.

All individuals check-in with organizers prior to each session to record their attendance, and those attending 25 or more sessions earn a "Red Dog's Dog Days" T-shirt.

A 1956 graduate of Lawrence High School, Gardner began his annual summer program in 1984 with his daughter, Leslie (then an LHS senior football trainer) and friend, Jim 'Punkin' O'Connell, to assist LHS football players with a pre-season conditioning program.


Dave McClain 11 years, 10 months ago

Hat's off to Don!!! Whenever I discuss with out-of-towners our wonderful small town community benefit, and how many people get involved, people are always amazed and wonderous of our town. It's a sense of pride to see how many people from all walks of life participate in this program to better one's health. And even more amazing is the number of volunteers that each year spend time to help this program succeed. I have participated in some sessions that have over 600 people! I hope the rest of Lawrence understands the great gifts we are given by the people who arrange and promote programs such as this that allow each of us to be a better person.

Thanks 'Red Dog!"

HeavyBrother 11 years, 10 months ago

This is the first year I've attended Dog Days and it has changed my life. I've lost seven pounds. Don and Bev and the rest of the volunteers really are heroes. And let's not forget the wonderful people at KU that allow the use of their facilities for this amazing community activity. It's great that KU Athletics continues to support this event. I hope the generosity continues for years to come.

badger 11 years, 10 months ago

And hurlehey_boy demonstrates one of the first rules of the Internet:

Everyone, at some point, has managed to hack someone off, and usually that someone has Internet access.

I hope I never get honored for anything that gets reported in a public forum, because I used to be really bad about unpaid library fines and I'm pretty sure those librarian-types read the Internet.

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