County Fair Swim Club manager Missi Pfeifer teared up accepting a $15,000 award from the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee on Thursday night at the Eagles Lodge, 1803 W. Sixth St.
“You don’t understand what it means for us,” she said of the money that would go toward bathroom and cement improvements at the 52-year-old swimming facility in southeast Lawrence.
Pfeifer said the facility provides affordable swimming to about 500 Lawrence youths a year. With large improvement projects looming, the facility needed help.
That’s where the parade committee, which plans the Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day Parade and also raises funds for children-oriented community organizations, came in. This year the committee gave $15,000 checks to The County Fair Swim Club, Ballard Community Services and The Lawrence Arts Center.
After presenting the awards, Sara Jane Scott, parade committee co-chair, announced that the committee has now donated $750,000 to the Lawrence community during the past 26 years.
“To get to this milestone is an amazing feat,” Scott said, noting the group’s humble beginnings.
Former committee Chairman Robert Browning said that the group raised around $800 during its inaugural — and incredibly snowy — first parade. About 1,500 people turned out to watch.
Since then, participation and the fundraising have increased, but Browning said that wintry weather has remained a factor.
This year the group needed a metal detector during its Irish Road Bowling fundraiser to locate the metal bowling balls, or bowls, in snowdrifts. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade was drenched by a cold rain.
“It was amazing to look at the crowds out there bundled up in the rain,” Scott said.
Scott estimated that 12,000 people participated in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day events.
To Pfeifer, such participation says something about Lawrence.
“The Lawrence community has saved me countless times,” she said. “They make you want to be a part of it.”
• Ballard Community Services will use the money it received to educate parents about children’s health and improve its playground. Ballard Community Services director of education Megan Stuke said that without the funding, playground improvements would not have been possible.
• The Lawrence Arts Center will use its funding to help pay for children to attend art programs.