The Southwest Florida Detroit Lions Fan club doesn’t have the best team to cheer for on game day, but they are a loyal bunch that has helped local charities.
In 2008 the hapless Detroit Lions went 0-16. Doug Lansdale wondered if their were any other Detroit Lions fans in the area so he put out the word that there would be a gathering at Beef O’Brady’s in Punta Gorda for any Lions fans.
The first meeting had about 10 people there including Lansdale’s family. “That was about as many fans that I thought there were in the area,” said Lansdale.
After two years the Lions club outgrew the meeting room at Beef’s and moved to Nemo’s at the Bowland complex. They stayed there for 7 years but outgrew that room too.
“When the big meeting room at Beef’s opened up, it was a no brainer to move back where we had more room. Nemo’s was great to us but we just needed more room,” said Lansdale.
With an average of 70 die hard Lions fans at every meet up, it turned out to be a perfect fit. “We had 88 at one game this year, but we always have room for more fans,” said Lansdale. There are over 220 members of the club according to their website.
There is a small group of four members who have been dubbed “The Michigan Mafia.” The go by the names Joe Vegas, Snake, Paula and Big Daddy. Snake, Bob Koss, was an usher as a 16-year-old boy when the Lions won their last Championship in 1957.
“I was an usher and I wiped down the wet seats for the fans. I sat in the upper deck in right field at Tiger Stadium and watched the championship game from the 50 yard line. My rag was frozen as I sat on it on the concrete steps and watched that game.”
Former Detroit Lion and DeSoto County star athlete, Jim Yarbrough, came to a meeting when he was in the area. He signed autographs and enjoyed meeting so many Detroit fans.
It is an active club as they took a bus to Miami earlier this season to watch the Lions play the Dolphins. A couple of years ago they went to Tampa when the Lions visited the Bucs.
They are also very active in the community with generous donations to local charities. “Our charities have to be in Charlotte County and it has to put most or all of their money into the charity. We like working with the local youth and have donated money to Special Olympics, Back Pack Kidz, Crossroads Academy, Girls on the Run, Homeless Coalition, and several other local organizations. We look for organizations that are not funded nationally because we feel our local charities could use help more than those who are funded nationally. One of our core purposes of this club is to be benevolent to the community,” said Lansdale.
The club raises money through 50/50 drawings and squares for each quarter and the Detroit Lions have given them autographed items to raffle off too. Local businesses also have given gift cards to be used as fundraisers. Lansdale estimates that the club has given nearly $25,000 back to the community.
“The Lions have not been the most successful team in the NFL, but the loyal fans continue to come out and enjoy the camaraderie. Through their contributions we have been a successful club. There is no cost to join us, just come out and have a good time,” said Lansdale.