Lansing’s next generation of doers has things well in hand, er, paws

When I’m asked why I love Lansing as much as I do, I tell people it’s because the city is the perfect size for having a big idea and making it a reality. All you need are some enthusiastic friends, a few favors, a whole lot of planning and just the right amount of social media promotion.

In the past few years, I’ve watched people dream up and produce Trebuchet Day, Dirty Feat, Frost Fest, Ignite Lansing, Vacant Lansing, Lansing GiveCamp, Fiction 440, the Capital City Dragon Boat Races and so many more. Some of those events have faded into history, but many endure and are growing. And more are popping up each year.

What I love about the events, as they move into their second, third, fourth years, is the number of people I don’t know who attend them. The #lovelansing movement has gone beyond event planning for Twitter friends and turned into all kinds of people creating fun, cool things in our city that scores of folks are getting behind.

But I worry. Because I do that. I worry that eventually we’re going to run out of energy and ideas. That maybe things will get a little rote. That we can’t sustain this forever.

Because it’s true, we can’t.

But we don’t have to. We’ve never had to. In fact, “we” shouldn’t. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking the only people who are part of the #lovelansing movement are the ones who actively use the hashtag and mean it. In reality, there are people of all ages in our city who love Lansing – and they invest in it and promote it and support it. They’ve been here all along, hashtag users or not, and there will always be new fans.

Of course it’s logical to look at people in their 20s as the next wave of doers. But I’m thrilled to know someone a little younger who is currently planning his second annual event for Lansing.

He’s 8.

Isaac Torok staged his inaugural Dog “Illempics” in Moores Park last summer. Eighteen people RSVP’d on the event’s Facebook page. About a dozen dogs participated in the free event. Isaac, who was then all of 7, planned all the various competitions and built hurdles with his dad. Duct-tape ribbons were awarded and homemade peanut butter dog treats were distributed to all the furry participants.

This easily could have been a one-time thing, fueled by a kid’s energy, indulgent parents and a handful of amenable friends and their dogs. But Isaac has a passion for this. In the intervening year, he has learned to spell “Olympics” and he has secured someone to sing the National Anthem to open the games. Without soliciting any support, he has been approached by local businesses offering to give him agility equipment, dog toys and on-site vet care. More than 50 people already have joined the Facebook event for July 26.

As someone who has helped organize community events, I’d say that’s a pretty solid sophomore effort.

And, like any smart event planner building on past success, he decided to evolve the event into a Bark for Life fundraiser for canine companions. Last year, Isaac learned his dad had cancer. It’s treatable – in fact, he’s been given a clean bill of health – but when you’re 8, cancer is cancer. It’s scary and you want to help. So Isaac met with a staffer from the American Cancer Society to set his plan in motion.

Isaac’s mom, Tashmica — who I introduced you to last fall http://bridgemi.com/2013/10/abuse-survivor-lights-fuse-on-childrens-reco... — manages the social media promotion for the Dog Olympics, because when you’re 8, Facebook isn’t really your thing. But beyond that, it’s Isaac’s show, Isaac’s mission, Isaac’s idea.

“I think dogs should have something special to do once or twice a year,” Isaac said. “I really like dogs. Dogs make people happy. They like to play with people, but they like to comfort them too. When you have cancer, sometimes you’re sad, and dogs make you happy.”
Isaac said service dogs that help people with cancer really deserve our love, which is why he’s helping them with his event.

I think I can stop worrying now. See you July 26, Isaac.

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