EDWARDSVILLE - Lexy Dona always said, if she ever got rich, she would start a nonprofit.

Dona has yet to win the lottery, but she decided to start the Helping Handlers Foundation, a new organization based out of Edwardsville. After their first event on May 19, 2024, they were able to donate $15,000 to Hope Animal Rescues, and Dona is more certain than ever that she made the right choice.

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“We decided we weren’t going to wait any longer,” said Dona, who started the Helping Handlers Foundation with her mother and husband. “We were joined by other Handlers Jay Myers, Dr. Kristin Brunstein, Ryan Landry and Munpreet Thiara to create the Helping Handlers Foundation.”

The organization aims to raise money for other area nonprofits. Their board is made up of “party planners and animal lovers,” so it made sense that their first undertaking would be a “woofleball” tournament.

The event, which Dona said was the “brainchild” of her husband Ben, quickly took off. With a silent auction, raffles, concessions, a 50/50 drawing and more, the wiffleball tournament saw 12 teams compete. The winning team was led by former White Sox pitcher Mark Buerhle, and former Cardinals player Jack Clark threw out the first pitch.

“The teams had an incredible time and spectators had a great time and the workers had a great time, and we couldn’t have done it without all the people that were there,” Dona said. “This was a machine. This was a bunch of people that cared and loved and made this happen. We’re a force to be reckoned with as a group.”

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They raised over $21,000 and decided to donate $15,000 to Hope Animal Rescues, an organization based out of Godfrey that cares for “abandoned, surrendered, ill, broken, senior and hospice dogs,” Dona said. The organization's mission is close to the hearts of all the Helping Handlers.

“It’s the intent of the organization to identify various organizations, whether they be animal-related or people-related, to then do fundraising for them or somehow find a way to help them in their efforts,” explained Jay Myers, one of the Helping Handlers. “It takes an army to do these things.”

And the new foundation has an army behind them, with a growing base and more people eager to get involved. While they aren’t able to reveal their next project just yet, Dona and Myers promise they have a lot in the works.

Dona noted that her family has received help in the past, and that is partly why she, her mother and her husband were so eager to start a foundation to help other organizations. They wanted to give back to the community that has boosted them, and they’re off to a great start.

“People have stepped up to help us in the past. It’s just kind of a karmic thing. It’s a goodwill thing,” Dona said. “That’s what the whole point was, to make a difference.”

The Helping Handlers Foundation hopes to double their donation after next year’s woofleball tournament. You can keep up to date with the Helping Handlers Foundation on their official Facebook page.

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