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Lions Club's polar plunge helps raise funds for Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind

Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind volunteer Judi

Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind volunteer Judi Wines hangs out with retired guide dog Mazel on Sunday, April 12, 2015, during the Bayport-Blue Point Lions Club April Fools Polar Plunge at Corey Beach in Blue Point. Credit: Rachael Funk

Corey Beach was packed with swimsuit-clad supporters who came out to the Blue Point-Bayport Lions Club's fourth annual April Fool's Polar Plunge on Sunday.

Participants of all ages gritted their teeth and braved the 41 degree water to help their community.

Funds raised by the plungers went to help provide scholarships to the Blue Point-Bayport Lions Club's high school junior members, "The Leo Club." The plunge also raised money for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, an organization this Lions Club has been supporting since 1990.

Tom and Judi Wines of Bayport have been volunteering at the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind for 11 years and brought their retired service dog Mazel to the plunge to help tell people about the foundation's work. Though it takes $55,000 to raise and train a guide dog, the foundation, located in Smithtown, provides the dogs free of charge to those in need.

The foundation was founded in 1946 to help meet the needs of blind World War II veterans. In 2003, it began "America's VetDogs-the Veteran's K-9 Corps" to train service dogs to help with physical therapy and PTSD in addition to their other programs.

"These kids come back with PTSD and you see the difference they make in a veteran's life," said Judi Wines, 70.

Dogs from the foundation are helping people all over America, and some have even been sent to Iraq and Pakistan to assist crisis intervention groups.

"People will tell you the darndest things when you've got a dog on a leash," Judi said. "They might not open up to you, but they'll open up to your dog."

In addition to bringing Mazel to public events, Judi and Tom Wines guide group tours of the foundation, speak at schools and firehouses, and do any outreach they can.

"We've been there 11 years and every time we go in, we learn something new," said Tom Wines, 71.

The Wines' involvement with the foundation has been very rewarding.

"I feel so proud we can do something like this for people,” Judi Wines said. “When you're blessed, you gotta give it back, and we're blessed."

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