BIG IMPACT WITH LIONS CLUB SERVICE PROJECTS Brandon’s Playground Wish Comes True It started as a child’s simple request. Brandon Sims, now 11, asked his great-aunt and great-uncle for help in improving the playground at the Arkansas School for the Blind last year. A tree had fallen on the slide, blocking its use, and the playground had generally fallen into disrepair after being built in 1987. “It was a really old playground and everything was so rusted that I was afraid kids would get hurt,” he explains. What he got was more than just a little help. The school was given a spectacular new playground installed with assistance from 54 Lions clubs across the state. The equipment is expected to last at least 15 years and be enjoyed by an estimated 10,000 children who will run, jump, cheer and play like other kids their age. Brandon made a wise choice when he turned to Wanda and John Barnett, both longtime members of the Gravel Ridge Lions Club. They knew how to put the building of a new school playground worth $125,000 into motion. Lions received a $25,000 LCIF matching grant and steep discounts on equipment from manufacturers to build what is now known as Brandon’s Playground. Businesses and individuals contributed to the project along with parents and hundreds of Lions, who not only drove the campaign to raise the money but also refurbished picnic tables and supplied the labor to install playground equipment. The school cut trees to expand the area and did other prep work to prepare for a new, expanded playground. There are still traditional favorites like new swings and an ergonomically designed seesaw to give kids a good workout, but many other pieces of unique equipment are also now firmly rooted in the ground. A “rockscape” made of recyclable plastic has the look of natural rock and gives the kids a place to climb on, around, up and down. Another unique attraction is the drum circle based on traditional African and Caribbean instruments. With this assortment of outdoor plastic instruments strung together, kids can beat out their own original rhythms and sounds. Making Brandon’s wish come true “was not always an easy journey,” Wanda Barnett says. Lions kept at it, however. A year after Brandon first asked Gravel Ridge Lions for their assistance, the new playground was installed and ready for use. Brandon, who wants to be a meteorologist when he grows up, points out that the new slides are his favorite place to play. In fact, he admits that his new hobby just might be enjoying the playground instead of working on his magic act, complete with pulling a “rabbit” out of a hat. “I’m very grateful. Thank you, Lions,” he says. It’s a Blast! Stratton-Eustis Lions sponsored the 13th annual snow sculpture and lighting decoration contest for the 2009 Polar Blast festival. Located in northwestern Maine, Stratton-Eustis, composed of residents from two communities, unite with two local associations to sponsor the snowy celebration. Lions sell food outdoors to raise funds to support their year-round service projects. Patricia Franz says, “The Polar Bear Blast is a unique activity and we’re out there with our hot dog cart selling dogs, hamburgers, coffee and cocoa—and the temperature can be below zero with wicked winds!” The weekend’s activities are split between the two communities. “We’re very small here,” points out Franz, “with maybe 700 people in all the communities within a 700-mile radius.” Snow sculpture competition is open to businesses and families. “We usually judge between two and six in each category but we have problems if it rains after they’re done. Last year it rained and it didn’t leave much to judge!” she says.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Ideas+That+Roar/303323/30128/article.html.