Let the Zany Games Begin More than 2,000 years after the Olympics originated, Lions in Troy—Illinois, that is, not Greece—put their own 21st century spin on the ancient games. Hurling a computer keyboard through the air passes for discus. Instead of launching a mighty javelin, Olympic “athletes” are given three sheets of paper to make airplanes. The one whose plane flies farthest is declared the winner. Archers use rubber bands to shoot at a bull’s-eye. During last year’s games, there were 10 events, each one a quirky test of skill. The Office Olympics, Lions-style, was the idea of Dan Jackson, who suggested a fun way the club could raise money to help the police department acquire a trained dog for its K-9 unit. The games coincide with Troy’s inaugural Downtown Days celebration to maximize publicity and participation. “I had three goals,” he explains. “One, we’d raise some money for the K-9 unit. Two, people would have fun. Three, no one would get hurt. We had a couple of skinned knees from figure skating [picking up items scattered on the ground while wearing roller skates], but other than that, we met our goals.” “It was all Dan’s idea, and people are still talking about it,” says Lois Adomite, whose husband, Bill, and son, Allen, are also Lions. Allen Adomite is the mayor of the city of 10,000. “He was a pylon during the relay race. People couldn’t stop laughing,” says Lois. Each race participant sat in an office chair and propelled themselves down the street around a “pylon” and back to the start. The mayor-pylon wore a fluorescent yellow vest, hard hat and safety glasses. Seven teams of six people each from local organizations and businesses competed against each other. Lions were too involved in the games to participate as a team. “We’re a relatively small club so we didn’t have enough members to do everything and field a team,” Jackson says. Money was raised by “weightlifting,” during which each team sold heavy rolls of 2,000 raffle tickets at $1 each. The winning team, consisting of motivated members of Troy’s police department, sold the most tickets. Although the club raised $2,500, that amount fell short of needed funds to purchase a police dog. “We’re still raising money. You know Lions. Once we’re committed, there’s not much that can stop us,” Jackson adds. Help and Hugs for All Wearing bright yellow shirts and big smiles, members of the new Waco Women’s Lions Club in Texas arrived at Connally High School’s track and field area ready to hug. It was a breezy, late spring morning, and the sun was shining. Lions were there to cheer on athletes in the Central Texas Special Olympics. Serving as huggers was suggested by Kim Giles, a hugger since 2008. She wanted Lions to share the same experience, so she suggested it to the 39-member club as its first project. “There were about 350 athletes, and we saw and touched just about every one of them that day,” Giles says. “We greeted each one with warm hugs and cold water.” Huggers meet participants at the awards line, where each Olympian receives a medal for participation. “You’re about worn out by the time you finish hugging. It’s a long day but your heart is ready to burst. It feels so good,” she adds. Lions immediately followed up with a second project to support a local program to provide healthy snacks for schoolchildren on weekends. “Many of these kids have no food in the house and come to school starving on Monday—literally,” says Giles. Since most of the Lions are working professionals, she says she believes they can become more personally involved by mentoring some of these children who are in the foster system. “They age out of the system at age 18,” she explains. “They’re given free state scholarships to go to college, but a lot of them can’t make it through the mountain of paperwork it takes to get there. So then they just don’t go. We want to be there for them a couple of years before they graduate from high school, so we help them get through all that paperwork.” Some of the Lions are CPAs who plan to teach the young people how to write checks, pay bills, sign leases and use credit responsibly. “Many of these kids don’t have any adults who’ll take an interest in them, so they’re thrown into life at 18 without many skills. We want to change that,” Giles says. Smart Boards, Smart Choices It took five years, but Brookston Lions in Indiana provided new teaching tools to energize imaginations and engage children from first grade to high school. Lions began their biggest fundraising effort ever at possibly the worst time. “In 2009, the region was in the middle of the economic downturn, and many people in our community had lost their jobs,” says Charles Roth. “We decided to dream big anyway and provide every classroom in the elementary school with a Smart Board.” Located in the rural north-central part of the state, Brookston is a small town with less than 1,500 people. Their project eventually gave 26 Smart Boards costing $61,000 to classrooms in the school district. It was inspired by a single request. Frontier Elementary School first-grade teacher Becky Chitty asked Lions to purchase one of the new devices to enhance her students’ learning. Interactive Smart Boards encourage learning by combining a classroom- sized white board with computer-driven graphics. “I use mine multiple times during the day,” says Chitty. “The opportunities to engage students are endless. They’re really excited to participate in lessons that are so bright and colorful.” She calls the new, white Smart Boards “game-changing technology in our small rural school.” Lions may have led the fundraising effort, but many in town pitched in. “One parent told me, ‘I have $5 extra this month, and it’s going to help my kids learn,’” recalls Roth. Teachers were involved in five of the fundraisers, including delivering pizzas sold at half price by a local restaurant. Local EMTs, volunteer firefighters, sororities and the middle school honor society were among other groups that supported Lions with fundraisers of their own to donate money to Lions. In six months, Lions had raised $42,000 for elementary school classrooms. When junior and high school teachers saw how the boards motivated learning, they asked Lions for Smart Boards for their classes, too. Roth says, “After a brief ‘let’s catch our breath’ hiatus, we bought two boards for the high school.” Lions then launched another campaign to raise more money and raised nearly $20,000 more to equip every high school room with a Smart Board. Keeping it Green Nature inspires Hugh Clark, a Jamestown Lion in Pennsylvania. Because he’s District 14 F Environmental chair, he’s urging other Lions to wade into the environmental effort— even if it means throwing on a pair of rubber boots and literally wading into the water to keep it clean. Jamestown and Greenville Lions have spent several years cleaning up a stretch of the Upper Shenago River to create safe, clean water trails for kayaks, canoes and paddle boats. Now Lions are using their own green thumbs to nurture the colorful and grandly-named monarch butterfly. Orange wings fluttering, monarchs were once a common sight in the United States but in less than 20 years their numbers have plummeted from 1 billion to 33 million. They need milkweed plants for nourishment and as a place to lay their eggs, but Clark says the use of herbicides and land development have reduced more than 100 species of milkweed by 60 percent nationwide. Lions are trying to repopulate milkweed plants common to their area. “We set a goal of raising 1,000 seedlings,” says Clark. With a donation of 1.5 pounds of seeds, Lions set to work. “D. J’s Nursery offered to propagate the seeds, maintain them for a year while they grow stronger roots and give us technical advice on how to plant them.” Several Lions were joined by volunteers from a local gardening club when the plants needed repotting. Usually there’s only a 50 percent successful germination success. “We overachieved,” Clark points out. “Ours was 90 percent. We now have enough seedlings, 1,470, to fill as many 4-inch pots as we can find.” He’s philosophical about the abundance of green thumbs in the club. “The leftover seedlings—and there are a lot of them—may become salad at a Lions dinner.” The young plants will be planted this spring. “We’re going to give 50 or so to each Lions club expressing interest, to school science classes, Boy and Girl Scout troops and garden clubs,” he explains. Milkweed can be planted in open spaces, private property, gardens or even in flower boxes to attract and nurture monarchs. The Gift of Giving There’s money to be made from having fun, Saddle River Lions in New Jersey have happily discovered. Since 1957, they’ve raised and given back to the community more than $2 million. Much of that amount has come from the club’s signature fundraiser, a five-day carnival, and a golf tournament. “While it took 42 years to raise the first million, the second only took 14 years,” says David Verducci. Fundraising efforts accelerated when Lions began sponsoring the popular golf tournament 10 years ago, helping the club raise and give back $80,000 to the community last year. “The $2 million is just the tip of the iceberg of what Lions have done for the towns of Saddle River Valley and for people like me,” says Verducci. Verducci joined the club in 2012 after volunteering at the Lions’ carnival with a friend. “I worked a game booth and had a ball. I knew very little about Lions other than that they’re service-minded,” he says. He joined the club a few months later. And then he discovered a far more personal connection. Failing eyesight had forced him into an early retirement from a career in education and left him feeling “rudderless and without direction,” he says. “I had two major eye surgeries in a largely successful attempt to save a significant portion of my eyesight. When Lions found out about my condition, they were right there for me even though they barely knew me.” Club members brought him meals and drove him to appointments when needed. The club’s high profile in the three communities it serves—Mahwah, Ramsey and Upper Saddle River near the Ramapo Mountains in northeastern New Jersey—has recently led to a big jump in membership and the formation of two Leo clubs. “We installed eight new members last year, and our carnival raised more than $32,000,” says Jerry Michota, who joined the club six years ago. The club made nearly 100 donations to charity last year.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Service/1951869/249736/article.html.