Culver Military’s Nick Danesi (LaPorte, Ind.) used his senior service project to celebrate the reopening of his parents’ restaurant after a devastating fire and continue the work started by his sister, Madeline ’11, four years earlier.
On July 17, 2012, an electrical fire destroyed Marc and Leslie Danesi’s eclectic The Stray Dog Bar & Grill in New Buffalo, Mich. The popular tourist destination is named after a stray dog named Jack, who was adopted by family friends Ivan and Marjorie Bloom. A large canvas painting of Jack even hung over the restaurant’s fireplace and was one of the few items to survive the fire.
The Michigan City, Ind., humane shelter rescued Jack and his two brothers when they were puppies in 1999. The Blooms adopted him and he quickly became part of the family, traveling with them everywhere. When people asked what breed he was, the Blooms said he was “a lucky dog.”
After Jack passed away in 2009, Madeline established The Jack Fund and designed a T-shirt to raise funds for the Michiana Humane Society. The T-shirts were sold in the restaurant’s gear store during the summer of 2010 and raised $3,000.
The restaurant continued to sell the T-shirts in 2011, Nick said, but the fire halted sales in 2012 and much of 2013. The Stray Dog had to be completely rebuilt, taking nearly a year to complete. It officially opened on June 27, 2013. And Nick decided to revive the shirt with some design modifications.
The 2013 design has a shamrock on the sleeve with the number 13 inside it on the sleeve. While 13 is considered unlucky, Nick said it symbolizes the reopening of the restaurant in 2013, the revival of The Jack Fund, and all the lucky shelter dogs that would find new homes during the year.
While the T-shirts didn’t go on sale until August, after the main tourist season, Nick said the gear store still sold 290 shirts and raised $3,200 after costs. Plans now are to restart the tradition of selling a special limited edition T-shirt each the summer. Proceeds will continue to benefit the Michiana Humane Society.