LIONS CLUBS MAKE A BIG IMPACT WITH SERVICE PROJECTS Shiloh’s Second Chance Krista Putnam loves dogs. She also loves being a member of the Grass Valley Host Lions Club in California. Luckily for Putnam and her community, these two passions easily meld into a club service project that brings a very special visitor into the lives of children to help them learn to read. Shiloh, a border collie, is a rescue dog from a shelter that Lions support. His beginnings were inauspicious, says Putnam, a shelter volunteer who adopted him as a pup. “He was saved by some Good Samaritans after being dumped in a dumpster with some of his siblings and bound for certain death on a hot August day,” she says. Shiloh’s affection for his two-legged friends is what made him a natural candidate for Therapy Dogs International training. “An agility dog, he’s already starting to train for search and rescue,” Putnam explains. “His calling is to people and kids in particular. He just loves them!” Lions are making sure that Shiloh is right where he wants to be—in the center of the action. “We want to do something to make reading and learning fun,” points out Putnam, whose husband, Michael, is also a Lion. “The time and patience necessary to help kids read isn’t always available. Reading is an important life skill.” “Shiloh, who’s in the Tail-Waggin’ Tutors program, visits children in local schools to help out with reading, ABCs, 123s, rhymes, songs or whatever the teacher wants,” she explains. “He’s happiest in the middle of the class. His favorite is kindergarten, and he just loves being petted as the kids take turns stroking his soft fur and trying their hand at learning to read.” Shiloh turns out to be the best kind of friend to have in class. “He’s patient, non-judgmental and calming to the children as the teacher kindly helps them with the pronunciation of words. He lays his head on their laps and listens,” she says. “After a while, they get a ‘border’ smooch. And he is generous with the kisses, giving them just the perfect combination of rewards.” In addition to Putnam, other Lions dressed in the club’s Lion mascot costume often accompany Shiloh on his rounds. “Children interact more after having a therapy pet visit a class and, in some cases, pets draw out children who wouldn’t normally react,” she adds. Shiloh doesn’t just reserve his affection for children. “He visits many retirement homes in the area and snuggles with residents,” Putnam points out. “We promote Lionism and love wherever we go. He sports the Lions logo on his therapy coat and greets everyone equally with a wagging tail and doggie smile. Lions pay for the materials I hand out to the kids, including bookmarks.” Sight Checks and Smiles Approximately 10 percent of preschoolers tested for vision problems including amblyopia are discovered to have abnormalities that can lead to permanent sight loss if not corrected early. Screening fidgety, anxious preschoolers isn’t easy, but Beavercreek Lions in Ohio have discovered the key. “It’s all about the kiddies!” says Eleanor Haupt. She reads to children from interactive books while they wait their turn for testing. “Some kids really just want to keep reading. I try to make sure every child got a chance to help me read,” she explains. Lions often kneel on the floor to connect with kids at preschooler height. Haupt brings along stuffed animals for the children to hold. She does this to “help the kids relax and have fun, which it does,” she explains. “We also help them relax by calling them by their names or complimenting them on a piece of clothing or their smiles—‘Great sneakers! Wow, are they sparkly!’” After screening, Lions give the kids stickers to decorate shirts, hands or even faces. “Bottom line,” advises Haupt, “try to make it as much fun as possible.” Hearing the Message Loud and Clear Farmville Lions in Virginia were already serving their community as a club for a year before receiving an official charter in 1924. Inspired by a talk from Helen Keller at an early club meeting, Lions focused on helping the blind and hearing impaired. The 60-member club has now recently headed in a new direction—educating children on how to prevent hearing loss before it begins. A specially designed program called “Can You Hear This?” is bringing the facts to them in an interactive format. “It presents experimental ideas and has demonstrations for students, teachers and parents,” says Dr. William Schall. A former dean of Longwood’s College of Education and Human Services, he facilitated the collaboration between Lions and the university’s Center for Communication, Literacy and Learning. A $5,000 grant from a community foundation helped Lions establish the hearing initiative. Graduate students Allison Chaplin and Andrew Hockenbery helped develop the pilot program targeting fourth-graders under the direction of professor Lissa Power-de Fur. She explains, “One of the highlights of the program is how it engages students in creating [sound] waves, ‘smashing’ hair cells and measuring sound levels. Longwood also sends a bookmark with noise levels to the teachers to distribute a couple of weeks after the class.” The club and university have a long-standing tradition of working together for the community. “One of the former presidents of Longwood was the prime organizer of the Farmville Lions Club, and we still have a very strong relationship with the campus,” Schall explains. “Our membership is rather well-balanced, racially integrated, with both male and female members who range from their 30s to their 80s. Service projects focus on sight, hearing and diabetes awareness.” Tooth Fairy Pays a Visit It’s not easy being the tooth fairy, but Donna Upham manages just fine. Wearing a puffy white dress and tiara into classrooms, Upham, a member of the Overgaard Ponderosa Lions Club in Arizona, dispenses wisdom and fun with a wave of her wand. She’s part of an ambitious project Lions have undertaken both to educate children about oral health and promote reading. She may wear the dress, but Upham credits Lions Donna Harris and Jeri Kurtenbach with creating the tooth fairy program. “The dress was purchased at a thrift store. A seamstress added the sleeves, and we embellished the rest with ribbon and wings. It was a very minimal cost,” Upham says. Lions launched the project because “Arizona has the highest rate of children’s tooth decay in the entire nation,” explains Lion Doug Harris. Lions also wanted to inspire children to read. An $8,675 grant from the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation, the first ever given to a Lions club in its 17-year history, helped Overgaard Ponderosa Lions launch their educational campaign. The club also received 1,200 “smile bags” containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss to be given to children during the tooth fairy’s visits. An Arizona state agency donated more than 400 books for Lions to distribute and plans to donate more. “Donna passes out the books and requests that the children take them home to mom and dad to help them read,” says Harris. There are about 10 to12 oral health books used in the education sessions. Children learn a variety of facts about keeping their teeth healthy as well as hearing other entertaining stories. The tooth fairy presentation program is in demand at preschools and 13 libraries throughout the county. “We read a new book every time we meet,” Upham says. “The children are so excited to see me, and the boys are just as giddy as the girls. Sometimes I see the children in the grocery store and they ask me if I can fly. I tell them that we have airplanes now and I’m just a normal girl during the day.” The 61-member club focuses many service activities on children, says Harris. Those include an annual Easter egg hunt, which attracted nearly 300 children in 2013 who searched for 3,600 eggs donated by a local egg farm, and eye screenings for children in preschool through sixth grade. If Lions have their way, there will definitely be more magical thinking in their state. “We have a tooth fairy in training, Jeri’s granddaughter, Cora, a seventh-grader from our own community. I’m so glad this is being shared with other clubs. You can bet I won’t be the only tooth fairy out there,” declares Upham.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Ideas+that+Roar/1584335/188076/article.html.