Jay Copp 0000-00-00 00:00:00
1 It Takes a Lions Club to Raise a Prodigy Next time you tap your toes to “Superstition” or sing along to “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” give a shout-out to Lions. Born in poverty in Saginaw, Michigan, Stevie Wonder lost his sight soon after birth. His blindness heightened his sense of hearing. But he had to make do with toy musical instruments bought by his absent father. So his barber gave him a harmonica. His church choir director let him use the piano. Lions heard him beating a drum and gave him a drum set. Motown propelled him to stardom in the 1960s and he’s been on the charts since. Lions helped sign, seal and deliver this superstar. 2 What A Deal! Some folks like to sit down and play poker. Others enjoy the sun and outdoors on personal watercrafts. Then there are those who do both at the same time. For two years Clayton Lions in New York have sponsored a personal watercraft poker run. Participants pick up playing cards at five different points–four boats at anchor and a dock–along a 35-mile stretch of the scenic St. Lawrence River. Last year the winner took home a $400 prize. The real winners were the children who benefited from the club’s eye disease detection program. 3 Firefighters Can Stay Put Yes, Darien Lions near Chicago cook pancakes, staff grills and run the cloakroom at an auction, but their service is anything but typical. The 148-member club often serves on behalf of the Giant Steps school for children and adults with autism. Lions’ help at school events allows school staff to spend more time with parents and students. Lions also serve up smiles and a friendly demeanor at Giant Steps. “They treat our kids as if they were absolutely typical. That’s such a sign of respect–the understanding that these are just kids. That to me is the coolest thing about them,” Bridget O’Connor, executive director, told the Lisle Patch. Lion Steve Hiatt has a stepson with autism but says other Lions also invariably approach the students in the right way. “You start with a smile. You make eye contact. You let the parent steer the interaction. Just take it slow and don’t hurry them,” he says. Still, Hiatt adds that praise for Lions is “very humbling. The staff shows us such gratitude for what I consider minor participation. We’re putting in a few hours and they’re working 50 to 60 hours a week.” But O’Connor will have none of that. “For the first time, I feel like my hair’s not on fire when I’m running an event,” she says. 4 Build a Golf Course, Alter History African Americans were barred from golf courses throughout the South in the Jim Crow era. At best, black caddies could play on certain days or black golfers could play at designated times. The first desegregated municipal course south of the Mason-Dixon line was founded by Lions. In 1951, two African American youths walked onto the Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin, Texas. Mayor Taylor Glass received a phone call telling him about the presence of the youths on the course. “This was before there was any mixing of the races in restaurants, schools or anywhere,” said Glass in a 1974 interview that was not discovered until 2008. “I don’t see why it ought to bother anybody, and I’m for leaving them alone and not even calling the newspaper and see what happens. We went on and [let] them play and never heard a word.” Lions founded the course in 1924, and they transferred the lease to the city a dozen years later. The University of Texas, which currently owns the land the course sits on, voted to let the lease expire in 2019 and may develop the land. The course, known as Muny, is the most popular public course in Austin with 54,000 annual rounds, and the Save Muny campaign hopes the course can be designated as a National Historic Landmark. 5 Bullying is Not Cool at All Actors Quinton Aaron, who played Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher in “The Blind Side,” and Eric Martinez of ABC’s “Scoundrels” mingled with Lions at the Hudson-Keenesburg’s charter night in Colorado in February. Then the actors made the rounds at local schools to speak out against bullying in a campaign organized by the new club. Not a bad start for a club founded to assist youth and raise awareness of bullying. Many members are parents of small children and some are teachers. Despite his size, Aaron confided to the students that he was picked on constantly. Martinez shared how he shunned kids unlike him until a friend called him out on his behavior. 6 Bow Wow—Emphasis on the Wow We love our pets and know what they mean to us. But can we even imagine how precious a Leader Dog is for a blind person? Legally blind since birth, Nicole Liebl of St. Paul, Minnesota, had two pet dogs and worked for 21 years managing gift and snack shops and vending machines. The economy doomed her business. Age and disease claimed her beloved Lacey Louise, a poodle, and Rufus James, a Portuguese Water Dog. Liebl, 44, turned to Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Michigan. The school’s application asked what breed and gender were preferred. “I left that line blank because I wanted to receive the dog that God had in store for me,” she says. Liebl went to the school for evaluation, to ensure the dog selected would be a good match. She waited in her room for the trainer and dog. There was a knock on the door, but Liebl could not answer it right away. “I was so nervous I was using the restroom,” she told the trainer, who was not with a dog. “Your dog must be nervous, too, because she is doing the same thing,” the trainer replied. The dog was a yellow female Labrador. The dog’s sister, also donated to Leader Dogs, was named Thelma. This was Louise. “The name was perfect. God took part of Lacey’s full name and knew it would not be too difficult for me to handle,” says Liebl. Louise’s personality also jibed. “She loves people, children and other animals. She’s just like me,” says Liebl. Currently studying social work at the University of Indianapolis, Liebl hopes to use her degree at a church or hospital. She lives in a dormitory with Louise, who has literally and figuratively opened new doors for her and taken her to new places. But, as with Lacey and Rufus, the deepest journey has been inward–straight toward the heart. “She gives me loyalty, devotion and unconditional love, the greatest gift of all,” she says. 7 One-Man Recycling Bicycle Industry Marion Blank, 78, is not a bicycle repairman. That’s just the role he plays for the Yakima Lions Club and children in the Washington city of 90,000. He’s fixed up 1,190 bikes since 2001 in his garage and backyard, and the club gives them to a church youth program, foster programs and the Boy Scouts, who need mountain bikes for their outings. The club gets the bikes from Yakima police when stolen bikes are unclaimed or from people who donate their old bikes. Once a year Blank and several other Lions spend the day with youth served by the church and fix their bikes on the spot. “The majority of them say thank you. It’s gratifying,” says Blank. Blank sold paint and spray equipment for heavy-duty industrial uses, so he’s mechanically inclined. He always puts in two new inner tubes and often replaces brake cables, grips and kickstands. Bikes too far gone to fix are cannibalized for parts. The club buys bicycle parts at a discount from a local shop. An avid rider until knee problems sidelined him, Blank still takes each repaired bike out for quick spin to test it out. Blank puts a serial number on each bike he has fixed, and through the years only a dozen of the bikes he’s repaired were stolen again and once more handed over to him. So apparently his pride in craftsmanship had led to a clutching pride of ownership. 8 Toys for Kids, Membership for Maria Times were tough for Maria Medwedrich when she was married with four young children. With Christmas fast approaching, she swallowed her pride and showed up for a Toys for Kids giveaway. She had to wait in line two hours in the bitter Canadian cold before entering the hall. It was worth the wait. Bags for her were filled with toys, books, socks and mittens. She also went home with candy canes and oranges. Years later, Medwedrich was chatting with a friend, Joanne, who was a Lioness. “What do they do?” she asked. Joanne responded. “I froze,” says Medwedrich. “Everything happens for a reason.” Overcoming her shyness, Medwedrich went to the Lioness meeting, then joined the Sooke Harbourside Lions Club in British Columbia eight years ago and has not missed a Toys for Kids day with the Lions since. “It’s my favorite day of the year. As long as there is a breath of air in my body, I will be there with bells on. I love Lions,” she says. The cycle of giving goes on: Medwedrich has gifted her family to Lions. Joining have been her mother, husband, son and daughter, and her son’s girlfriend. Her young granddaughter is “in training” to be a Lion. 9 Pet Project St. Joseph Island Lions in Ontario, Canada, hold a pancake breakfast, award scholarships to worthy students–and run a pet cemetery. Since 2003, the club has managed the William Wright Memorial Pet Cemetery after its owner donated it the club. Each year between 25 to 30 pets are buried there. The cemetery’s revenues help fund the club’s projects. “We’re pet lovers, so it’s kind of close to our hearts anyway,” Lion Sue Kerr told The Sault Star. The club plans to expand the cemetery this summer by opening a “cats only” section complete with a “no dogs allowed” sign. 10 Can’t Keep a Good Man Down His accident happened 16 years ago this day, but Kevin Spalding just shrugs his shoulders and says he won’t commemorate it in any way. “It’s just another day,” remarks Spalding, 45, of Winona, Minnesota. Not hardly. Everything changed on that day that he fell off his roof trying to adjust his TV antenna. His traumatic brain injury led to weeks in a coma. “I was supposed to be a vegetable. I was supposed to have total memory loss. I was supposed to never walk again,” he says. Spalding uses a cane only when walking long distances or over unfamiliar ground. His memory loss is limited to a few weeks before the accident and six months afterward. Before his accident, he was a force of nature. He juggled work and volunteering for three rescue squads, two fire departments, shifts as a bartender and janitor and stints milking dairy cows. Now he stays busy helping others–collecting pop tabs and box tops for schools and serving as a Winona Lion. “I love it [being a Lion]. I love doing things for other people,” he says. Spalding knows how tenuous life can be. His fall off the roof was the last in a long line of accidents and misfortune. A barn roof collapsed on him. He fell through the ice while fishing. He was involved in a car accident that killed his sister. Helping others is a bulwark against life’s vicissitudes. He does what he can, selling Lions’ brooms by keeping the price list in his pocket and buttonholing people he meets. “I sell more this way than others do door-to-door,” he says with a grin.
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