POLAND Runners Go the Distance for Freedom since 2013 Eliciting smiles from passersby, three Lions, two from Poland and one from Germany, often heartily chanted “we run, we serve” as they ran in shifts from Hiroshima to Fukuoka, Japan. They completed the five-day, 170-mile run last June just before the 99th International Convention and met later with 2015-16 International President Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada of Japan. Polish Lions Mariusz Szeib and Daniel Wcislo, both past district governors, and German Lion Ludwig Schlereth, have taken part in a long-distance Freedom Charity Run annually since 2013. Experienced runners, the three met before the 2013 convention in Hamburg. Aware of their nation’s tragic common history, they decided to run for peace. “We’re neighbors—we should be friends,” one said to the other two. Children often join—for shorter distances—the epic Freedom Charity Runs. Their first run was a 261-mile relay from Szczecin, Poland, to Hamburg. The $15,000 raised from pledges went for German children whose towns had flooded. The Polish Lions wanted to repay German Lions for aid after a flood in Poland in 2010. Marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the 2014 run was star-studded. Solidarity leader Lech Walesa was the official starter for the run, which began at the historic Gdansk shipyard. The German consul to Poland also was present. The runners completed 385 miles and reached the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Oct. 3, near the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The run raised $20,000 for Ukrainian orphans. In 2015 the runners did 434 miles on a route that included Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Funds raised bought medical equipment for Lithuanian children with cancer. The run last summer raised money for victims of earthquakes in Japan and Nepal. Lions and others sometimes join the runners for part of a day’s run. Supporters run, ride bikes or line the route to cheer. In Hiroshima, the three runners prayed for peace in front of a memorial before their journey. One of the first runners to join them was Seiji Yamaguchi, born just 19 days after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and a daily runner for 40 years. HUNGARY Giving Paid Forward In giving, Lions in Hungary allowed sick children to give to others. Miskolc Lions threw a party for dozens of children at the Children’s Hospital in Miskolc near Christmas. Some children were hospitalized temporarily for maladies such as broken bones. Other faced more serious illness that kept them at the hospital continuously. The children did arts and crafts alongside Lions. “Lots of groups provide donations to the hospital around Christmas, but we served them with our hands,” says Lion Peter Koleszar. The children made Christmas ornaments, which they later gave to their parents, siblings, nurses and doctors. One boy gave a finished ornament to Koleszar. “We decorated our family Christmas tree with this, and his spirit was with us Christmas night,” he says. A Lion helps a child make a Christmas ornament. JAPAN Earthquake-proofing Accomplished Public safety announcements urging bracing of large pieces of furniture are regularly made in earthquake-prone Japan. But few people with disabilities, especially those living alone, comply with the recommendation, according to the Japanese LION. Lions secure furniture in the home of a person with a disability. Members of the Toyota Lions Club spent a day earthquake- proofing six homes of people with disabilities. The Lions used metal brackets and poles to secure refrigerators, bookshelves and other large household objects. “The more falls we can prevent, the more time we can buy for the disabled to leave their residences and go to the nearest disaster shelter,” says Yoshikazu Naruse, president of the 87-member club. Lions used their connections with Utopia Wakamatsu, a nonprofit that serves the disabled, to identify residents who wanted the help. The club previously had secured furniture for elderly who live alone. Toyota is a city in the Aichi Prefecture with a population of 420,076. NORWAY Young Campers Get an Upgrade Hardangervidda is Norway’s largest national park. Wild reindeer roam up and down its breathtakingly beautiful slopes. Young campers now can embark on their adventures in the park in style: 26 Lions clubs banded together to refurbish two nearby sleeping quarters. The facilities are at Trastolen, a popular starting point for treks into the 2,200-square-mile park. Clubs contributed 2 million kroner (US$300,000) and secured a donation of 1.5 million kroner (US$225,000) from Trond Mohn, a well-known Norwegian businessman and philanthropist. Buildings at one of the complexes sleep 32 and feature a large kitchen. A second set of buildings fits 30 and includes a former barn with long, communal tables. Lions are using the sites to host children with cancer, young people with mental health issues and others who benefit from time in the wilderness. Lions refurbished this hut and other accommodations near a beloved national park.
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