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MORNING STAR • AUGUST 14 - 20, 2008

Lions and Leos work together to help the community By Donna Dukes-Huston For the past sixteen years a group of Laurel teens has been supporting the local Lions Club through volunteer efforts. The Laurel Leo Club was established in 1992 as an extension of the Lions Club. Since then the group has expanded and become an active and vital part of the community. Although Lions clubs around the country support Leo clubs, there are very few in Delaware. “There are six Leo clubs in the state and two of them are in Laurel,” said Brad Spicer, Secretary of the Laurel Lions Club and Leo extension chairman for District 22 D, Delaware. When the Leo Club was first formed, it was open only to high school students. About four years ago, a second group was formed for middle school-age students, according to Joy Spicer, club advisor and President of the Laurel Lions Club. Joy’s daughter, Sierra, had watched her older sister participate and did not want to wait until she was in high school to join the Leos. She urged her mother to start another club for students her age. The high school club currently has around thirty members while the middle school club is smaller. Joy hopes to expand that club this year. “If they start early, then volunteering becomes part of their life,” Joy said. The Leos work with the Lions on many of their projects, most of which raise money to support the visually impaired. One such project, Vision Days, occurs each October. Leos and Lions stand in front of local stores and collect money for the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins for research, according to Spicer. Later that month the middle school Leos participate in Sight Night on Halloween. “As they are too old to go trick-or-treating for candy, they instead go from door to door asking for used eyeglasses, sunglasses, and hearing aids,” Spicer said. “We try to let the public know about this beforehand so they are ready for us. Last year we collected over 260 pairs of glasses that night.” In November each year the Leos partner with the Lions on a Journey for Sight which is a five mile walk through Trap Pond. Other groups are encouraged to raise money and walk as well.

“These groups donate half of the money they raise to the Lions Club to help people who are visually impaired, and they get to keep the other half,” Spicer said. According to Spicer one of the more rewarding projects for the kids is the annual Lions Club Christmas dinner for the visually impaired which is held at the Millsboro Convention Center. Prior to the dinner, the Leos make ornaments for the guests. “We try to make them textural so that the guests can recognize them by feel,” Joy said. “That way each year when they put them on their tree, they can feel the distinctiveness of our ornament and remember where it came from.” Leos present these ornaments along with other gifts from the Lions at dinner that night. They also help serve the guests dinner and dessert. Springtime means the annual Lions Club Variety Show, and the Leos do not want to be left out of that. In fact, they have been participating in the show in many ways for the past ten years. “We have a great time doing the show every year,” Sierra said. “We get to have our own skit or song. Last year we did the Thriller dance.” Those Leos who shy away from the limelight work backstage moving props, running presentations, and working the lights. The middle school Leos provided concessions at last year’s show. Not only do the Leos support Lions’ projects, they also have developed some of their own. Two of these projects were developed to support victims of natural disasters. The middle school Leos started Coins for Katrina to help the hurricane victims in Mississippi. “We made a pledge to the Lions Club in Mississippi that we would give $250 each year,” Sierra said. “The middle school kids collected change throughout the school and sent it to the victims.” The Leos later decided that they wanted to help victims of the tsunami when that tragedy struck. They held a rock-a-thon in the middle school gym from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. on a Saturday night. Participants got pledges and formed rocking teams. Team members took turns rocking as each team’s chair had to be moving for twelve hours, Sierra said. When the kids were not rocking, they took part in many other fun

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Pictured from left is Sierra Spicer, High School Leo club vice-president; Gaven Parker, High School Leo club president; Ashley Hastings, Middle School Leo club president; and Haley Layton, Middle School Leo club secretary.

activities such as playing basketball, watching videos, and dancing to music provided by a DJ. Seventy-five kids participated in this event and raised over $1,700. Sierra coordinated this event and found it to be the most rewarding. Sierra hopes next year to expand the Leos’ efforts internationally with Pens and Pencils for Peace. She plans to contact Leo clubs around the United States and ask them to collect new or used writing utensils or donate money to purchase them for children in Africa. “I was talking to someone recently who

had been to some of the schools in Africa,” Sierra said. “They told me that if the kids don’t have a writing utensil, they can’t go to school.” For Sierra’s extensive efforts with the Laurel Leos, she was selected as one of the top three Leos in the world at a convention in Boston in 2006 and earned the title of Lions Club International Leo of the Year last year. She was also a Jefferson Award winner in 2007. “I love to think that we can make a difference,” Sierra said. “A lot of teenagers don’t think they can, but we really do.”

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