All over the world, young people are forming lasting friendships and learning the value of volunteerism with a Lions’ initiative geared specifically for them: Leo clubs. Whether they join an Alpha Leo club (for ages 12-18) or an Omega Leo club (for ages 18-30), young people are developing the skills to serve their communities. The results are nothing less than inspiring. The Curaçao Leo Club in Netherlands Antilles organized a project to encourage schoolchildren to stop bullying. The Batu Pahat High School Leo Club in Malaysia cycled 40 kilometers to raise awareness of alternative, environmentally-friendly forms of transportation. In the Netherlands, the Rotterdam Leo Club sold clothing to raise money for an Easter breakfast for the homeless. The Neapolis Nabeul Leo Club in Tunisia donated goods to a local nursing home and spent time visiting with residents and raising spirits. “You realize one act can change lives,” Kat Sandell, a Leo in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, said after collecting cold weather clothing for children in 2014. Leo clubs received official, international recognition in 1967, but Lions’ auxiliary youth service clubs are almost as old as the association itself. As early as 1922, Lions in Fort Smith, Arkansas, had organized what they called a Junior Lions club in the town’s high school, focused on civic leadership. Within the first year, dozens of junior and senior high school students joined the club. Over the years, other Lions clubs also hosted youth clubs. In 1957 the seeds of a permanent youth program were planted in Abington, Pennsylvania, when Bill Graver asked his father and Glenside Lion Jim Graver, “Why isn’t there a Lions-sponsored service club for young people?” As coach of the Abington High School baseball team, Graver soon came to believe that forming a Lions youth club at the high school would encourage students to participate in community service. Graver and fellow Glenside Lion William Ernst presented the idea to their club, and the Lions decided to support the effort with the help of 35 eager students (mostly from the baseball team). On Dec. 5, 1957, the first Leo club was formed. The club adopted the high school’s colors—maroon and gold—and created an acronym for Leo: leadership, equality, opportunity. The word equality was later changed to experience. In 1964, the Lions of District 14 K in Pennsylvania sponsored the Leo club as an official district project. Clubs soon sprang up throughout Pennsylvania, as news of the Leo program spread. A few years later, a youth committee of Lions Clubs International studied the possibility of developing a youth club program. But the committee soon recognized there was no need to create something new. The Leos had already set a standard as efficient and effective youth clubs. By October 1967, the board of directors decided to implement Leo clubs on a global scale. Within two years, 918 clubs were operating in 48 countries. Today, there are an estimated 174,000 Leos in 6,942 clubs in 144 nations. As Leos, young people are changing their communities and building personal leadership skills that will last a lifetime.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Leo+Clubs+Channel+Volunteerism+Of+Youths/2838034/423323/article.html.