Marking Milestones with a Bell Every time a young cancer patient hits a milestone like completing chemotherapy treatments, a Lion’s bell rings at Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi. The sound of the “ringing out ceremony” shares the news as well as hope with other patients, families and staff. Lions got involved in the ceremony when child life specialist Tiffany Key wanted to start the ringing out ceremonies for her patients at Batson, but discovered she had no bell. “Then the next day,” she says, “we had a bell.” Bruce Beal of the Jackson Medical Lions Club, a recreational therapist at the hospital, brought the need before his fellow Lions, and members voted unanimously to loan their gong and gavel to the children. Eventually, the Lions helped them get one of their own. The bell ringing ceremony helps patients express their joy, but also spreads hope among others, says Key. Kids now dance down a red carpet, get a “no more chemo” certificate, are given a book and read a poem. Then they ring the bell three times, even though some exuberant ones would like to ring it more. Reagen McKinney and her mom, Jesse McKinney of Philadelphia, Mississippi, enjoy Reagen’s ringing out ceremony. Photo courtesy of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “It’s my favorite thing to do. Childhood cancer is a beast,” says Key. “But we have many, many success stories.” Within a year there may be 40 to 50 ceremonies for patients who range from little bitty babies to young men and women. “When the children come in, we tell them that this is going to be a difficult journey, but at the end there will be a celebration,” says Key. “This gives them encouragement. It’s a tremendous spirit lifter for our organization.” Sometimes parents choose to ring the bell to celebrate kids who may reach the end of life, or a child who isn’t able to be cured. “It’s equally as special but much more tear-jerking,” says Key. Jackson Medical Lions also help provide snacks for parents who are at the hospital with children and also support other hospital fundraising efforts. Playtime Is for Everybody in Iowa The Dubuque Noon Lions started building a playground at the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Garden in the late 1980s, and they just can’t stop. They are having way too much fun finding ways for children to have fun, and their newest project includes playground pieces specifically designed for children with sensory deficits or developmental issues. “Lions make great volunteers,” says Sandi Helgerson, executive director of the 60-acre arboretum in Iowa where an acre of land is dedicated to the playground. “We have had a strong partnership with Lions for many years.” The Dubuque Noon Lions first built a wooden play structure at the arboretum in the 1980s, then replaced it with an all-weather structure in the late 1990s when they also added a pavilion with picnic tables and grills, a walkway and benches. In 1998, a Lion’s head drinking fountain was added, thanks to a Lions family. The latest phase includes a playground with a sensory clock panel, a rain sound panel, an alpha maze in braille and more. “You don’t have to be handicapped to use it. Everybody enjoys it,” says Helgerson. New playground equipment at the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Garden, a project of the Dubuque Noon Lions, makes playtime special for children with sensory deficits or developmental issues. Photo by Nicki Kohl Jim Trannel, a past president of the club, says grants and local donations covered about $15,000 of the cost for this addition, and the club contributed more than $4,000 plus manpower. The arboretum is “fee free,” giving families free access to the playground and picnic area as well, says Helgerson. It is maintained by volunteers— many of whom are also Lions. Dubuque Noon Lions also sell ice cream during free Sunday afternoon concerts in the arboretum throughout the summer, splitting profits with the arboretum. Lions Ruth Palmer and Bill Fitzke help Chandler, Arizona, residents show their patriotic pride by posting American flags for them—part of the Sun Lakes Lions’ “Fly the Flag” program. Lions Help Others Fly the Flag When the American flags start flying around Chandler, Arizona, it’s not just a sign of residents’ patriotism. It’s also the American pride and spirit of the Sun Lakes Lions that’s waving in the breeze. The Sun Lakes Lions post about 1,800 flags in front of homes and commercial businesses for six major holidays each year, plus Patriot Day, the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11. Not only is their work a tribute to our country and a service to their community, but it raises funds that support other Lion projects. Past District Governor Larry Palmer says subscribers pay $40 a year for their “Fly the Flag” program. Once they have enrolled, he and his wife, Ruth, a past president of the club, go to the subscriber’s home and install a 13-inch pipe in the ground to hold the flag. On the morning of a national holiday or a few days before, Lions and their helpers go down the streets and post the three-by-five-foot flags that are on 10-foot poles. They return to retrieve the flags as well. The club has 30 to 40 flag handlers on an average holiday, and each puts up about 50 flags, says Palmer. The flags are stored in a large shed and delivered by volunteers, sometimes via a golf cart. “It’s a wonderful program any club can do,” Larry Palmer says. In fact, five clubs near them have picked up on the idea, and one club, the Darien Lions, have started a similar flag program in their Illinois community. Steve Hiatt, past president of the Darien Lions Club, heard about the program from his mother, Pat Hollander, a past president of the Sun Lakes Lions. “We talk Lions, and she kept saying, ‘You should try this,’” says Hiatt. “There’s a benefit to participating in Lions beyond your own club. You learn what others are doing.” Darien Lions put up the flags before 7 a.m. and reclaim them before sunset at about 70 homes. “It’s just another thing that makes you proud to be a Lion,” says Hiatt, who expects the program to keep growing. “If everybody does a little, a lot gets done. We want to support patriotism. We’re very pleased with it.” Leos Support High School Food Pantry Leo Clubs are open to young people who want to serve their community. But in Pennsylvania, the state where the program was founded by a Lion and high school coach 60 years ago, the high school Leos are finding that people in need can be as close as the next locker. The Leos at Chambersburg Area Senior High School in Chambersburg are lending a hand in the school’s food pantry, organizing and sorting food when it arrives to help food insecure students and their families. Teachers Elicia Eberhart and Jennifer Michael co-advise the Leo program in the school. Eberhart was the driving force behind the food pantry in the school where more than 50 percent of the 2,200 students receive free and reduced price lunches. It is also estimated that there are more than 120 homeless students in the school. Although there are food pantries in the community, most are not open at times when students can access them, Eberhart says. And some of these young adults are responsible for feeding their family. An in-school pantry allows them to bring nutritious food home to younger siblings. According to Michael, they are servicing 13 families and expect numbers to increase as more students and families become aware of what’s offered. The Leos have also aided 30 to 40 families with a Thanksgiving food drive, held a book drive, visited nursing home residents and rung bells for the Salvation Army. The Leos’ parent club, the Chambersburg Evening Lions Club, collected hygiene items for the school, says President Stephen Caldwell, and they recently donated $500 to a clothing room being set up in the school for students in need.
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