STOW – It only takes one dollar or the donation of a used pair of eyeglasses to attend the annual Paw Fest, but one man brought a thousand pair of glasses in addition to thousands he collected in years past.
The Stow-Munroe Falls Lions Club recognized John Yarsa of Barberton during Paw Fest Sept. 15 at Bow Wow Beach Dog Park for collecting thousands of used eyeglasses.
The plaque had a photograph of his golden retriever, Summer, who has helped him promote the need for eyeglasses. She is more than 14 years old and is beginning to slow down after collecting for nearly seven years.
Yarsa said it began when he and Summer attended a Paw Fest and saw that it took a pair of eyeglasses or $1 to get in.
"You needed one pair to get in," Yarsa said. "A thousand would be better."
Yarsa said he takes Summer to visit hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities and asks for donations of used eyeglasses. He has left photographs of Summer at different locations asking for eyeglasses.
"She is the poster child for a great cause," he said.
Marty Dennis, Stow-Munroe Falls Lions Club member for 36 years, presented the award. The primary purpose of the Lions Club is to help people with their vision.
"Eyesight is very important to our organization," Dennis said. "We want to show our appreciation for the many years he's been with us and the thousands of eyeglasses he donated. He brought 1,000 eyeglasses today."
Dennis began the Paw Fest fundraiser 13 years ago with the help of Pet Supplies Plus, who provided lots of dog treats.
"Dogs and other domestic animals have become so important to people," Dennis said. "The event was really created to educate dog owners and help them raise them and give them opportunities to learn more."
For dogs who may not have a large yard or place to run, the water and beach at Bow Wow Beach Dog Park gives them a great experience to run and play in the water, Dennis said.
Tom Stephan, who served as a judge with Yarsa in judging best dog costume, said he enjoys working with Yarsa.
"We work together well," Stephan said. "We feel the same way that there is almost always a front runner who puts in a lot of work in the costume."
The judges also look at the interaction between owner and dog, Stephan said.
"John is a dog person," Stephan said. "He knows more about dogs and I know more about costumes."
Summer, who did not attend Sept. 15, had won best costume for three years and was elevated to professional level to allow others to win.
Yarsa said he was surprised by the presentation of the plaque.
"Marty has a way of embarrassing me," Yarsa saaid. "We're good friends."
Being recognized was a win-win situation for Yarsa.
"I get enough self-satisfaction from doing something good and giving back," Yarsa said. "I will continue to collect eyeglasses."
Anyone with used eyeglasses they no longer need can donate them at a local optometrist and they'll find a way to the Lions Club, he said.
Summer guided Yarsa in his path to collecting eyeglasses. Instead of completing obedience school, Summer escaped to the agility course in a neighboring room. She became a champion agility dog and her ability to take orders, even from a distance, led her to becoming a therapy dog and then an animal advocate for eyeglasses.
"I followed the dog," Yarsa said.
He tells others if they have a dog with a good temperament, spread the love.
"Take your dog out and make people happy," Yarsa said.
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org