Tethered Together, Lions Run for Sight Mike Bruno had two goals when he blindfolded himself and set out with colleague and fellow Apollo Area Lion Jim Irvin to run the Pittsburgh Marathon in Pennsylvania. He wanted to raise money for the Vision Research ROPARD Foundation. It was personal—retinopathy of prematurity robbed his 8-year-old daughter Cassie of her sight. He also wanted to experience what Cassie experiences every day. Born prematurely at 25 weeks and weighing less than two pounds, she spent 114 days hospitalized and is on the autism spectrum. A volleyball coach at Point Park University, Bruno enlisted the assistance of Irvin, a cross-country coach at the university. Irvin wore a shirt with a Lions logo and ran while tethered to Bruno with a short rope. The pair did four blindfolded training runs together before the 26-mile route. Bruno practiced by walking longer distances daily wearing a blindfold, but he was a little nervous because he hadn’t run a marathon for 20 years before this one. “I think being coaches helped us enhance our communication during the race,” Bruno points out. “The experience absolutely helped me relate to Cassie. In fact, at one point during the race, I experienced sensory overload for the first time in my life. We were running. The crowd was very loud, and there was a band playing.” Crossing the finish line raised more than $27,000 for the ROPARD foundation. District 14 N Lions also gave a $5,000 contribution, says Past District Governor Tom Toland, a retired teacher who taught Bruno as a student. “I ran into him and invited him to join the club,” he adds. Horses Lead to Learning in Florida Ann Favreau, a Venice Lion in Florida, says that her club shows support for literacy in a very basic way—by “horsing around.” Lions support a program called InStride Therapy that uses horses not only for physical therapy but also as four-footed tools to increase literacy skills. The club funds a half-day field trip for first-graders that includes a book for each child, worksheets and transportation. Children boost their language skills by learning new words to describe parts of the horse and the tools used for grooming and tacking, which includes putting on a saddle and stirrups. The star of the show is “Little Red,” the pony featured in a book read to children by a volunteer. “They learn how to safely approach him, measure their own height against Little Red’s and have the opportunity to make comparisons between his home—the barn—and their own houses and rooms,” she explains. “They’re able to connect the horse’s care to their own personal needs of eating, nutrition, cleanliness and tooth care.” Pretend play is a big part of the field trip. The children expand their large motor skills by make-believe horse care like mucking out a horse stall, scooping golf balls with a pitch fork and carrying buckets in a scavenger hunt to find grooming tools. In addition to funding the field trip, Venice Lions also contribute a half-year scholarship for a visually and mobility-impaired child to receive therapy that helps movement and cognition. Support for the program is one of 14 grants that the club provides yearly, most of them given to help the blind and visually impaired. Lions Make a Splash Blistering Midwestern heat waves won’t faze children in the small Indiana community of Albion anymore. Lions led the way last year as the community raised $140,000 to build a splash pad in a park. Brady Truex says the 30-member club was looking for a project that would celebrate its 60 years of service in a “big, splashy” way. Operation Splash Pad was, well, splashy, all right, and kids love it. So do their parents, who enjoy watching the water-soaked action while comfortably shaded at tables and benches located inside the fenced area for their convenience. “Nothing worthwhile is ever easy,” points out Truex. “This took a lot of effort from everyone involved.” With an annual budget of only $5,000, he says the club had never before tackled such a big and expensive project. Albion Lions gave donations in honor of or in memory of loved ones. “We gave money from a festival food booth, chicken barbecue sales and a raffle we had. We received a grant from the Indiana Lions Foundation, and several clubs in our district also donated to the project,” Truex adds. Community organizations, businesses and individuals in the town of 2,300 also contributed. “We were able to complete the project eight months ahead of schedule only because the fundraising was so successful,” Truex says. “We’re a tightknit community.” Fighting Hunger on Bikes in Vermont Julie Muller explains that the first Hungry Lion Bike Tour sponsored by Whitingham-Halifax Lions in Vermont was set to take off in September 2011. “Then an unwelcome guest decided to visit our community,” she says. “Tropical Storm Irene arrived. The devastation was just too great and the roads weren’t secure enough to handle our riders. We had to cancel.” Lions tried again the following year, and Mother Nature cooperated. In 2013, the ride to raise money for the Vermont Food Bank made $5,000. Some Lions are themselves athletic and experienced riders on Vermont’s hilly roads. “I have been a passionate bicyclist for years,” says Joe Specht, who suggested the fall foliage tour as a fundraising project. “Having a bike tour made sense to me. There are more upsides than down.” He didn’t want the club to sell concessions because “there’s as much potential to lose money as make it,” Specht says. Bike clubs publicized the tour, which had a $50 registration fee, but there were also several corporate sponsorships. Each rider received a free website as part of their registration fee so they could solicit support from friends and family for the food bank. Vermont ranks as the 11th “hungriest” state, and Whitingham-Halifax Lions have spent 20 years trying to change those numbers for the better. They began by serving hot holiday meals to people in need and now deliver reusable grocery bags packed with food to families and individuals. The bags are filled with enough food to last a month. “We take care of our neighbors in need,” Muller says.
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