A Learning Adventure Hoping to help children feel empathy for the visually handicapped, Mountain Grove Lions in Missouri let them briefly experience a world without sight. The club participates in KidsFest, an afternoon of activities organized by churches and youth groups. Last year Lions gave families a better understanding of how the blind navigate daily challenges. Retired teacher Ray Richey, who used the same exercises with his students, suggested the project. Visitors to the Lions booth were invited to wear swim goggles with painted-over lenses to simulate blindness. “They had to count out money, button shirts, pour water, stack blocks and identify smells and items touched,” says Richey’s wife, Sandy, also a Lion. “Some of the older kids, around 8 to 12, told us that it was a lot harder than they thought it would be. One mother who brought her daughter over to the Lions booth told us she wouldn’t need to do the exercises with the darkened goggles because she was already visually impaired,” Sandy Richey recalls. Lions talked with the mother and gave her an application for assistance. The club later arranged for the little girl to be tested, and she was given corrective lenses at no cost to the family. “A lot of the parents told us they didn’t even realize we do as much as we do for the community,” says Annie Wojcik, who joined the club in 2013. “My son tried all the challenges and he, too, realized how difficult life is without sight.” Wojcik says she tries to take Rowdy, now 9, to as many Lions events as possible because he loves helping. “The spirit of volunteering starts young. I remember accompanying my grandfather to Lions meetings when I was my son’s age.” What a Difference a Day Makes in Maryland Time was short, but Lions in District 22 W in Maryland managed to make a big impact on a single day. Paul Cannada, a Thurmont Lion and then incoming district governor, believed he could encourage district-wide participation in Make a Difference Day. With just three months to plan after becoming governor, Cannada shared with his district the Thurmont club’s strategy for success: focus on a single goal. Clubs quickly embraced the project, says Bill Strauss, a Libertyville Unionville Lion. “Each club was encouraged to choose a project that would truly make a difference in their own community,” he explains. “Projects ranged from collections of food for food banks, clothes for people in need, books for schools, libraries and senior citizens, phone cards and CARE packages for our military overseas, and cleaning up yards and sprucing up homes for the elderly.” “New and unique projects emerged,” Strauss says. His own Lions club helped provide clothing for homeless children. “This was a shock to us,” he points out. “Ours is a mostly rural area, and we never knew that there were so many homeless children in our community.” Lions now intend to keep pace with filling the need they discovered. Newman’s Own, one of National Make a Difference Day’s sponsors, awards $10,000 to each of the 10 standout volunteer individuals or groups. “Out of the 3 million people throughout the United States who participated, the 2,000 members of District 22 W were honored for their accomplishments," says Strauss. Cannada chose to split the prize money evenly between two MD 22 foundations: the Lions Vision Research Foundation, which funds the Wilmer Eye Clinic research team, and the Lions Saving Kids Sight Foundation, which supports eye screening for preschoolers. Comfort and Care for Grieving Children Bobbie Ziebol, a Sauk Rapids Lion in Minnesota, had seven grandchildren between the ages of 1 and 12 when her husband died 13 years ago. “That loss affects children so much. It’s their first experience with grieving the death of someone who means so much to them. They see someone every day and then don’t understand that he’s not ever coming over to the house again for dinner,” Ziebol explains. She says she jumped at the chance when Lions were asked by a local agency to help assemble “good grief” bags to help children navigate the stages of sadness and grief. Funding cuts ended the agency’s bereavement program, but Lions are continuing to give gifts to youngsters who lose a beloved member of the family. Among the many items tucked into the bags are a photo album or frame, a poem, a coloring book, a notebook to express their feelings, candy, a stuffed animal, tissues and colored pencils. Ziebol says in addition to losing her husband as an adult and seeing how her grandchildren reacted to his absence, she experienced loss as a child, too. “I lost my own mother at 17. When I went back to school, I felt different from everybody else. I didn’t have a mother. I wish I’d had resources like this back then.” Lions distribute the bags to school nurses to keep on hand when they learn of a child’s loss. Club members have no direct contact with the recipients. Adds Karen Hovanes, “We shop garage sales and dollar stores for nice picture frames and spend about $250 each year filling the bags. We always include our club brochure in each one so families know who the Lions are.” No Limits for Young Club Beltzville Lions in Pennsylvania know what they want. And what they want is to be active. “We’re relatively young, age-wise,” says Jim Logue Jr. of the 3-year-old club. “We decided to start this club because other clubs nearby seemed to already have their own projects. This way we could work on projects that others aren’t already doing. We’re not a huge club, but we’re enthusiastic about working with the community.” Members quickly found a meaningful project: a cleanup of Lock 13, a canal-side area they believed could be transformed into a community park with some significant work. Several severe storms had brought down trees and wreaked havoc on the area. “There were fullsized trees that were down and lying partway in the canal and along the banks of the Lehigh River,” says Logue. “One of our Lions, Joseph Craig, does construction and brought in some of the big equipment we needed.” Also on hand to help out were community volunteers and teens from a youth mentoring organization. They hauled trees out of the canal and used chainsaws to cut them into manageable sizes to be hauled away. “One of the biggest challenges was a huge tree trunk that was lying under the bridge that crosses the canal. It was basically broken into two sections,” he explains. “Together the entire trunk was bigger than my car. We got both halves out of the lock.” Logue says that club members intend to keep the area cleared of debris. Several Lions now tend to the park on their own to ensure that the area remains pristine. “Lock 13 is now a beautiful place to visit. Every little bit we can do to help is good for everyone,” he says.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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