Contest Fires Up Firefighters Racing around an obstacle course carrying a 200-pound mannequin is a tough job, but firefighters give it their all—on the job and off the job—competing in the arduous, often hilarious, annual competition sponsored by Cowansville Lions in Quebec, Canada. Lions and firefighters teamed up five years ago to promote fire awareness and the critical need for smoke detectors. The club has donated more than 1,000 fire and smoke detectors to area fire departments to give to families who can’t afford them. “Again last year someone fell asleep while smoking and the result was that a family died, leaving one little boy orphaned,” says Michael Wing. “We just want to save lives.” He adds, “The majority of our local fire departments are volunteers, and the competition gives them a chance to have some fun and be together within a non-working environment. It’s a family day.” Last year, eight teams participated. It doesn’t cost much for Lions to sponsor the competition. “It’s basically just paying for advertising posters and inflatables like bounce houses for the children,” Wing points out. The winning fire department receives a trophy from Lions, who also give firehouses additional smoke alarms to donate. “We try to change the competition with different trials as much as we can so firefighters don’t get that ‘been there, done that’ feeling,” says Wing. “One of the crowd favorites is the ‘Midnight Call,’ where teams have to get into their full bunker suits as quickly as possible. Another trial is to follow a mixed-up water hose while blindfolded. The water brigade trial is fun for everybody. We all love to see the water splash around and a lot of people get wet, including us!” Peace Inspires Hawaii Artwork “Aloha in Hawaiian expresses many things,” explains Pali Lion and teacher Cecelia Izua of a mural painted by children at St. Anthony School in Kailua, Hawaii. “It could mean hello, goodbye or love.” A chance meeting at the 2014 international convention in Toronto between Izua and Nagasaki Lion Sairi Fukushima led to the creation of one of 160 murals that are part of the Kids Guernica International Children’s Peace Mural Project. With a colorful “aloha” decorating a flower-stewn beach painted by students, the 11-by 25-foot canvas has now become one of 160 “Guernica” artworks drawn by children. The original Guernica was painted in 1937 by Pablo Picasso to show the devastation that war brought to a Spanish city. Nagasaki Lions in Japan supported one of those paintings done by children in their community, and donated the canvas roll to St. Anthony. Under the supervision of an art teacher, 350 children helped create the artwork. First displayed at the international convention center in Honolulu, the mural then traveled to Nagasaki where it was part of an international exhibit. “We used the word ‘aloha’ because that word seems to be synonymous with Hawaii,” explains Izua, whose husband Clarence, is also a Pali Lion. “When people respect others and their different points of view, they are showing their love to others and we feel that this leads to peace.” Pali Lions helped students mix paints and clean brushes as each class worked. “None of the classes wanted to leave when their shifts ended. Some of them got permission to stay after school and rushed back to paint. Even the 3-year-old preschoolers left their fingerprints in the sand,” she adds. Shaving Heads to Fight Cancer Jeanne Diehl says it didn’t take much to convince her to have her head shaved to raise money for St. Baldricks Foundation to fund research into childhood cancers. “I was a special education teacher in Boston for 36 years and saw a couple of the kids I taught fight cancer, so it was really important to me.” Diehl was one of 11 Sebastian Lions, four of them women, who raised more than $15,000 for St. Baldrick’s. “It felt surreal. I’m still rubbing my head, but it was so exciting to have it shaved. There was so much energy there,” she says of being buzzed. Lions have participated for two years in a row, but the first time only three of them volunteered for the shaving, performed by volunteer stylists. “Not one Lion hesitated,” says Lion Charles Smits. “They just all marched on up to the stage to have it done.” “I was so excited before we went up that I couldn’t even eat,” recalls Diehl. “It felt really empowering, like I was doing something for a much bigger cause than myself.” It does feel odd, she says, to no longer feel the wind blowing through her brown hair as she drives her convertible around. “I just lather some sunscreen on my head now,” she says with a laugh. “It’s a lot easier to take care of. I can’t wait to shave my head again next year!” Heads Up! Zombie Apocalypse Arrives There’s no denying it. Zombies are big. Even without a pulse, they’re heating up the big and small screens. Willmar Noon Lions in Minnesota cleverly capitalized on the zombie phenomenon and in the process, raised money and helped charter a new Lions club in the community. “We were just looking to have a little fun and make some money,” says Terry Smith, who came up with the idea of a zombie-infested Halloween haunted house last year with his 15-year-old son, Eli. “I thought it’d be a great idea for teenagers in the area who were too old to go trick or treating, but still wanted to have some fun during Halloween.” Smith says that there was just one problem. “We’re in the 40 to 80 age range. None of us really knew how to put on a successful haunted house, and not much more about zombies.” A group of community actors turned up to help. They not only played zombies, but also showed volunteers how to turn themselves into the scary undead with the skills of makeup artistry. “I had no clue that zombies were so popular here in Willmar,” admits Smith. They set up the Zombie Apocalypse Haunted House in a vacant store in a mall, charging $10 a ticket for three weekends. “We had a whole storyline involving soldiers and zombies. I was one of the ‘good’ zombies,” says Smith, whose son, Eli, was also “zombified” for the attraction. More than 800 people toured the haunted house. Lions invited the volunteers to join the club but their noon meetings proved a problem. The answer was the newly-chartered Willmar Nite Lions Club Branch, which this year sponsored the haunted house. “We started small and ended up with much more than we thought we would,” Smith says. Hats Off to Texas Club Less than four months after first attending an informational meeting about starting a Lions club, the 33 members of the Houston Lady Lions Club in Texas raised $12,000—at their charter celebration, a tea party with a purpose. “We wanted our launch into Houston to be about projects we support,” says Joni Hannigan. More than 100 people attended the “Hats & High Tea” auction and raffle, and most of the men and women did indeed wear hats. Gifts were awarded for the most original hats. Hannigan didn’t win, but her head was adorned with a vintage 1940s red-felt pillbox. “It was my mother’s. I literally found it in a hatbox in my closet.” In the audience were representatives of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, Daddy’s Deployed and the Pink Ribbons Project. Proceeds were split evenly between the three groups. Many of the Lions are professionals. “Most of us are mature and accomplished with contacts that reach far into the Houston community,” says Hannigan. “We know who has the dollars and time. We want to get our hands involved, too, and put our minds to work to find the people who need our resources and time the most.” As soon as the tea was over, the club immediately began collecting donations for a food bank.
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