From a handful of participants speedonthewater.com corresponded with, it was evident that the 18th annual Lake St. Clair Fun Run in Harrison Township, Mich., was as enjoyable as ever. The sold-out fun run, which benefits Special Olympics Michigan, took place on Wednesday, June 25, out of MacRay Harbor and was hosted by Ann and Dennis Plegue and Ann’s brother, Wayne Schaldenbrand, the founder of Sunsation Boats in Algonac, Mich.
Steve Gordon, a member of the Lake St. Clair Powerboat Club, showed off his new 46-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran, Deal With It, which features turbocharged Sterling Performance engines, during the Lake St. Clair Fun Run on Wednesday. Photo courtesy Chip Miller
With backing from the Lake St. Clair Powerboat Club and two longtime Special Olympics supporters—the Water Warriors and the Wertz Warriors—the event went off without a hitch and the weather was perfect as 70 boats hit five stops in a unique poker run format. Rather than award an entire boat (or team) a card at each stop, the Lake St. Clair Fun Run allows each registered person to play a hand of cards.
Sunsation used the fun run as an opportunity to both test and show off its new silver 34-foot center console. Photo by Joe Schaldenbrand
“Besides raising money for such a great cause, the coolest thing about the poker run is that you don’t enter your boat, you enter individuals,” said Chip Miller, who owns Miller Marina in St. Clair Shores, one of the sponsors of the run. “I had eight people with me on my Formula Boats 400 SS and everyone in the boat had their own ticket and wristband. So when we pulled up to the stops there’s not a card hand-off, you pull in to the restaurant and everyone goes inside, walks up to the card table and gets a card. That way each person in the boat is playing cards. It makes it kind of interesting.”
Schaldenbrand—who participates annually in the Wertz Warriors Special Olympics fundraiser, a weeklong endurance snowmobile ride throughout Northern Michigan—is proud of the event his sister and brother-in-law have developed. He’s even more proud of the fact that the fun run has raised more than $250,000 for Special Olympics Michigan over the years.
“We probably raised more than $30,000 this year, which puts us over a quarter-million dollars since we started this event,” said Schaldenbrand, who did the run in the company’s latest 34 CCX center console with triple Mercury Verado 300 engines (read the story). “The runs lately have been self-propelled—we have to shut it off at 70 boats because of docking. I remember years ago I had to spend eight hours on the phone just trying to get people riled up to go. Now it sells out and we have to turn people away.”
The event takes place midweek on purpose, according to Schaldenbrand, who had 11 people on board the 34-footer, including his wife and two daughters. Because the lake is pretty quiet on a Wednesday, it makes it easier to move 70 boats at a time from stop to stop. It also brings down some of the costs as the establishments aren’t as busy as they are on a weekend so they’re willing to provide good deals for the charitable event.
“I really like the run—it’s in my backyard and it is for a great cause,” said Keith Burk, who lives in Warren, Mich., and participated for the second straight year in his 2009 37-foot Active Thunder V-bottom with twin 525-hp engines from Mercury Racing. “It’s also great to meet new people and see different boats.”
Miller, who said he never misses the event, gave all the credit to the Plegue and Schaldenbrand families.
“Ann and Wayne do such a great job with this event,” Miller said. “With the environment, especially on a day like yesterday which was so beautiful, and the great cause, how could you not come out and support this event?”