Will Bannister performs with the band at the annual Floyd Lions Jamboree in Floyd, New Mexico. Country for a Cause For one weekend every year the high school gymnasium in Floyd, New Mexico, has three or four times more people than the town. Floyd, New Mexico, population: 133 according to the 2010 census. Floyd Lions Jamboree population on a Friday or Saturday night: Anywhere from 300 to 600. “If we can get you there once, we got you forever,” says Wade Carter, one of the Floyd Lions preparing for their 67th annual jamboree on March 23 to 26. All across east New Mexico and west Texas, Lion jamboree fans eagerly await three nights of country and one Sunday afternoon of gospel music when local talent takes the stage. And it pays off. Jamboree profits ranging from $8,000 to $12,000 a year provide scholarships for graduating seniors as well as eye care for needy children in nearby communities. “It’s our way to support folks, and the more people come out, the more we can help,” says Lion Paul Benoit. “But the jamboree goes well beyond fundraising. This has become a community tradition.” The jamboree was started in 1950 to raise money for new high school basketball uniforms, and it has never stopped. With just a dozen members, the club has worked hard not just to keep it going, but growing. Roughly two-thirds of the 26 to 28 local performers are show veterans who have played or sung at the jamboree for at least 10 years, says Benoit. Many are professional, and among them is Will Bannister of nearby Portales who at 28 has toured internationally, cut three albums and prefers traditional country– the music of the jamboree. Bannister was 11 when he and his brother auditioned for the show and made it. He was 12 when he learned guitar. “When I was a little kid I thought that’s bigtime if I get on that jamboree,” says Bannister. “And it’s been help to me, that’s for sure. It’s been a big part of me growing up.” Benoit, who lives in Floyd, says the town’s population might be actually closer to 115 if you include dogs and cats. But musical talent apparently grows well on this ranch land. People will drive long distances to enjoy and support the jamboree. And this year they will be able to two-step to their three-chord country music, Benoit says. The Lions are adding a dance floor. Extra DigitalContent Brandon Carter, son of Lion Wade Carter of Floyd, New Mexico, made an entertaining video about the heart and the history behind the Floyd Lions Jamboree that draws hundreds to hear country music every year. Wishin’ for Another Mission It takes lots of planning, a long flight to the Philippines, a bumpy ride over back roads and then long days in the heat tending to anxious patients. But Lions such as Rosemarie Gabriel of Phoenix say it’s more than worth it. Once, after her bandages were removed, a patient who had cataract surgery touched her mother’s face and exclaimed, “You are so beautiful.” Says Gabriel, “You hear Lions talk about their ‘ah-ha’ moments. I personally call these my ‘wow!’ moments because it’s the only word I can say when I’m in the middle of it all.” A man shows a boy with new glasses in Caborca, Mexico, how he can read the newspaper himself now that he can see clearly. The Phoenix Phil-Am Lions Club has completed seven medical missions to the Philippines. Many members are of Filipino descent. The club’s last mission was to Mexico in 2015. Three dozen volunteers, most of them Lions, helped screen 840 men, women and children over two days. Phil-Am Lion Dr. Conrad Ballecer led the medical team, performing 36 sight-restoring cataract surgeries. Patients were also given “smile kits,” filled with toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss, from Delta Dental. The Arizona Lions also had a twinning ceremony with Lions from the Caborca club who hosted them during the mission. Phil-Am Lions plan to return to the Philippines this year. “Even people like me, who don’t work in the medical field, can participate because there’s so much work to do, like registering and escorting patients, and eyeglass prescription matching,” says Gabriel, 2015-16 president. Disc Golf Soars as a Sport Edwina Brown, a Sacramento Lion in Kentucky, says that “there’s no theater, roller rink, bowling alley or even a fast food chain restaurant” in her rural farming area of less than 500 people. So Lions wanted to promote exercise and provide some entertainment for residents who’d supported Lions’ projects since the club was chartered in 1952. Turns out that Lions had to look no further than their own clubhouse to find both. New members Bob and Sharon Walker are avid disc golfers along with their son, Kyle, and other family members. “I play a couple times a week. It’s a great way to keep in shape,” says Bob Walker. Kyle Walker winds up to hurl a disc to the first hole 150 yards away. Photo courtesy of McClean News/Don Wilkins The Walkers suggested Lions use the acreage surrounding the clubhouse for a disc golf course. Members kept the property mowed, but it was used only once a year when Lions sponsor an annual classic car, truck and tractor show. A cross between golf and throwing a Frisbee, nearly anyone can play, says Walker. The object is to get the disc into a basket with the least number of throws. As in golf, specialty discs like a driver, putter and a mid-range model can be used. “It levels the playing field between men and women, and kids and people well into their 70s can throw a disc. It’s not a physically demanding sport, and it’s not expensive.” Walker asked 13 businesses to sponsor a hole to raise more than $4,000 to buy concrete, baskets, rubber mats, par signs and discs. “Every one of them said yes,” he points out. Walker, his brother Travis, and Kyle designed the course in a single day. The nine-hole course laid out over more than 3 acres has chain-link baskets hung from the trees and extends across the road to land donated by 80-year-old Bobby Thomas, a charter member. Recycling Tiny Pill Bottles Saves Lives What’s the value of an old prescription bottle? Once the medicine is gone, simply toss the plastic container into the trash can or recycling bin, right? Not so for the 58 members of the Silver Spring Leisure World Lions Club in Maryland. They collect, clean and send the tiny bottles to Malawi in Africa. The containers are invaluable there. “When Malawi’s health care professionals don’t have pill bottles, they just put prescription drugs into patients’ hands or into crumpled pieces of paper to carry home,” says Lion Pattu Durairaj. “If the pills spill out or get dirty, patients risk getting new illnesses or being unable to complete their drug regimen.” Leisure World, a gated community, is a great place to collect prescription bottles. Every one of its 8,000 residents is older than 55. To collect the bottles, Lions initially used only existing boxes for hearing aids and eyeglasses in doctors’ offices and in a shopping plaza. Now they’ve expanded to a few high-rise residential buildings and plan to include other locations. Leisure World Lions also were given 300 bottles by the nearby Sandy Spring Lions. Lions Pattu Durairaj (left) and Larry Cohen pack prescription bottles headed to Malawi. The club kept shipping costs to Malawi low by piggybacking on shipments of other donated goods headed there. The club first learned of the need for the bottles from a Lion in a nearby club. The collection project has had some unexpected benefits for the club: more donated hearing aids and eyeglasses. The club also is getting a lot more inquiries about membership.
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