Lions Club, vision van at North today to make sure students see clearly

By Sarah Campbell


CHINA GROVE — If students at South and North Rowan high schools weren’t already seeing clearly, they will be soon.

Members of the Salisbury Lions Club used the vision van, a traveling clinic equipped with the tools needed to test eyesight, to check the visual acuity of more than 150 students at South on Thursday.

Today, the vision van will roll over to North, where Lions Club members will provide vision screenings for the school’s freshman class.

Bryan Hoover is site coordinator for the vision van, which travels throughout the state. He said the Lions Club’s motto of “We Serve” is reflected in clubs across the state providing vision screenings at about 150 sites each year.

“We are trying to serve the public by doing this,” he said.

Hoover said the vision van has conducted more than 100,000 screenings since it hit the road in 1999.

Although 90 percent of those screenings were done in a community setting, the remaining 10 percent have been at schools.

“Most kids, if they have had a visual impairment since they were born, they don’t realize that they should be seeing any better,” Hoover said. “They have a really hard time learning in school if they can’t see clearly, so our goal is to help find those kids and try to get them the assistance they need to see better.”

Kady Samples, a student at South, said Thursday’s screening gave her a bit of peace of mind.

“I haven’t been to the eye doctor in a while, so it’s good to know my eyes are OK,” she said. “It’s really nice of (the Lions Club) to do this for us.”

Michael Childress, a sophomore, said he’s always had good vision, but he didn’t mind double-checking Thursday.

“It’s pretty cool they are here helping out,” he said.

Wayne Kennerly, a Salisbury Lions Club member, laughed with students Thursday before conducting their vision screenings. He’s been helping with the screenings for years.

“It’s good because we can help catch those kids who can’t see well and help get glasses for them,” he said.

Lori Swaim, another Salisbury Lions Club member, said she enjoys doing the screenings.

“They can help us detect some problems that they might not know about, so I think it’s very important,” she said. “In fact, I think it’s one of the most important things that we do.”

Vicky Slusser, executive director of Communities in Schools of Rowan County, said she contacted the Salisbury Lions Club for help with the screenings after the site coordinators at South and North indicated a need to get their students’ eyes checked out.

She said the club picked up the $130-per-day fee to have the vision van at each school.

“I was put in touch with their president, and then from there it was kind of just a chain reaction,” Slusser said.

Students who need to see an optometrist but don’t have insurance or Medicaid will receive a voucher provided through a partnership between Communities in Schools and Sight for Students.

“That provides them with one vision screening plus a pair of glasses,” Slusser said.

Slusser said vision and dental screenings have been on the student needs list all year, and she wanted to make sure at least one of those were met before the semester ends.

“If they are not able to see to read, they are not able to do their school work, and that’s going to be vital when they start doing end of the year testing,” she said.

Slusser said she’s still hoping to get dental screenings done, but hasn’t found an avenue to make it happen. She said poor dental health could prevent students from coming to school because of pain from decay or embarrassment because of missing teeth.


Louisiana Lions seek applicants for special-needs summer camp

By Carol Wolfram

Lions_Special_Needs_CampsWhen the first session of the Louisiana Lions Camp near Leesville was held during the summer of 1961, it was more than a place for crafts, cookouts and campfires; the weeklong camp on 170 acres of piney woodlands provided a place where a child with special needs was just another child — making friends, discovering new talents, having fun.

That unique sense of belonging and growth was experienced last summer by Emily Clark, now a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Little Oak Middle School in Slidell. “I didn’t want to leave,” Emily said, recalling the fun she had fishing, making crafts and honing her archery skills.

The daughter of Karen and Chris Clark, Emily is an enthusiastic child who especially enjoys social studies and aspires to one day become an actress or singer.
But even exuberant Emily had to admit she was a bit nervous before arriving at the Louisiana Lions Camp.

Born with neuroblastoma, Emily underwent her first surgical procedure to remove as much of the cancerous tumor pressing against her spine as possible when she was only five days old. The surgery was followed by chemotherapy, and the cancer was destroyed. Nonetheless, the tumor had caused orthopedic injury that would confine Emily to a wheelchair until, at age 3, she once again had surgery, this time as a Shriner’s Hospital patient, which enabled her to walk using leg braces. A related orthopedic surgery is scheduled for April 11, to allow time for recovery and rehabilitation in plenty of time for Emily to once again attend Louisiana Lions Camp session.

Emily said she will do whatever it takes to get back to Leesville. “When I was there, I didn’t feel like I was ‘the only one’ like me,” she said.

When this year’s summer sessions begin June 3, they will include:

One week dedicated specifically to youths with pulmonary disorders, ages 5-15.

Two one-week sessions for the mild mentally challenged, ages 8-19 (mentally challenged children must have an age level not more than four years below their chronological age).

Two one-week sessions for youths with diabetes, ages 6-11 and 11-14.

Two one-week sessions for visual, hearing and orthopedically challenged youths, ages 7-19.

Each applicant requires the sponsorship of a local Lions organization. Applications may be downloaded directly from the Lions Clubs of Louisiana website,, or by contacting local Lions Clubs. Jerry Wilson is coordinating the efforts of the Slidell Noon Lions Club and may be reached at 646.2537; and Larry Chaudoir, the efforts of the Mandeville Lions Club, 626.8862.

While the camp is free, including transportation, the application process can be long and should be started as soon as possible.

Donations to support the Lions efforts also are welcome. A Life Membership costs $100, and can be purchased by contacting a local Lions Club member.

Wilson stressed that while the camp provides summer fun and enrichment for its campers, the week also provides a break for caretakers, parents and families.

Karen Clark encouraged families to give themselves the care they give day-in and day-out to their children.

“As much as the camp is about the kids, it’s also about the families. We all know it takes extra to care for a special-needs child. When they’re at camp, it’s OK to relax, focus on yourself, care for each other, and the other kids,” she said. Emily has a 13-year-old sister, Abigail, who is a seventh-grader at Boyet Junior High.

“Letting go is not easy,” Karen Clark admitted. “I’m so used to being around for her. Emily’s a very independent person, but to not be in the background, in case you’re needed, is a difficult thing.”

She said she was able to reach the point where she was confident that, whatever happened, Emily would receive the best possible care. “I had faith and confidence that all my concerns would be taken care of,” Karen Clark said. “I had to believe.”

Emily’s mother stressed that she never doubted for a second that her daughter would have fun at the camp. “This kid can have a great time wherever she is,” she said.

Emily encourages any child who might be considering applying for the camp to go for it. “Be confident,” she said. “It doesn’t hurt to try new things.”

Lion Burger satisfies countless stomachs, club’s fundraising needs

CHILLICOTHE — During fair week, the Chillicothe Evening Lions Club hangs its hat on a sandwich so popular it’s become an attraction unto itself.

The Lion Burger — a half-pound double cheeseburger stacked high with sauce, pickles, lettuce, onion and tomato — is reason enough for some fairgoers to step foot onto the grounds. For the Lions Club, the burger represents a chargrilled boon to its fundraising efforts.

All of the proceeds from the Lions booth go to help support 17 local and international charities, several of which are tied to the club’s philanthropic focus — sight conservation.

The Lions collect used eyeglasses at the fair as part of a year-round campaign that brings in an average of 3,000 to 4,000 pairs annually. They’re cleaned at the Ohio State University and then distributed in Central and South America. The club estimates it has collected more than 100,000 pairs and raised more than $1 million during the course of its 87-year history.

The Chillicothe Evening Lions Club was chartered in 1924. Club members first served food at the fair in 1946, and a permanent booth was built two years later.

The club has 82 members and devotes more than 900 man-hours to its booth during the fair.

“We sell an awful lot of (Lion Burgers) and I do the cooking in the evenings, so I can attest to that,” club President Emmitt Hempstead said.

Hempstead said the booth cooks about 100 pounds of beef each day, which would amount to 200 Lion Burgers. But the menu is more than one sandwich, no matter how popular that one sandwich might be. Members also offer regular hamburgers and cheeseburgers, hot dogs, eggs for breakfast and various other items.

Mike Hathaway, a club member, conceded the Lion Burger has some similarities to a certain famous double-decker burger served by a popular fast food chain.

“We had the idea first,” Hathaway said, before backpedaling a bit. “OK, I can’t say that for sure.”

Those who pass by the Lions booth cannot only smell the Lion Burger being grilled, they can hear it being sold. Every time a customer buys one, the Lions ring a bell.

In something of an ironic twist, as much as Hempstead touts the burger, he’s never actually eaten one. He has a sensitivity to gluten, so he can’t eat the bun.

Local Lions clubs fear closing down due to lack of volunteers

By COLIN MCEVOY – The Express-Times

More than 20 years ago, the Bushkill Township Lions Club raised the money to build a pavilion for the township park that is still used today. Two months ago, the once active club was forced to disband due to a lack of volunteers.

“We just didn’t have enough members, so we decided to drop it,” said Cliff Bonney, 84, one of the club’s founding members and one of eight still active when the club finally closed. Once among the leaders of local volunteer organizations, the Bushkill group is not the only local Lions Club to have lost some of its roar in recent years. The Nazareth Lions Club, which has served the borough for 84 years, had 154 members when current President Charles Roth joined in 1954.

Now it only has about 16. Roth was so concerned about its lack of volunteers he wrote an open letter to borough residents claiming the club might have to fold if it did not get more members.

“When did volunteerism start to diminish in the United States?” Roth asked. “It’s just a lack of willingness to do things for other people. It’s a selfishness.” About 410,000 people are in Lions clubs throughout the United States, a drop of about 3,000 members from last year, according to Dane LaJoye, Lions Clubs International spokesman.

Membership hit its nationwide peak in the mid-1980s with about 560,000 volunteers, he said. Local members said they have not seen young people join in the same numbers as they did decades ago. When the Bushkill club closed, most of the eight remaining volunteers were founding members and almost all of them were retired men in their 80s, Bonney said.

“No young guys like we had years ago,” he said. LaJoye said people younger than 30 still volunteer but tend to do it episodically. They’ll coach their son or daughter’s soccer team this year, but maybe they won’t next year,” LaJoye said. “This month they’ll volunteer at their church, but maybe next year they won’t. So they’re volunteering, but they’re not joining.”

Other service clubs have seen problems with declining volunteers. The Phillipsburg Area Jaycees was unable to coordinate the Phillipsburg-Easton Halloween parade this year due in part to such problems. The event was saved only at the last minute when the Warren County Regional Chamber of Commerce took responsibility for organizing it. Chamber President Robert Goltz said volunteerism has dropped in part because businesses have stopped supporting it financially.

“They still do, but they don’t support it on their dime,” Goltz said. “In the past, the banks would say, ‘OK, you’re required to volunteer so many hours, but we’re going to pay you for those hours.’ That is gone.” Many Lions clubs have tried new methods to keep up volunteerism, including appealing to families and starting “cyber-clubs” with more online participation, LaJoye said.

John Cooke, past president and current member of the Palmer Township Lions Club, said his group has tried to brainstorm ways to bring in new members, but has found many people simply don’t have the time. The Palmer club has 18 members, down from 54 when Cooke joined in 1971. But the group still tries to keep active. Earlier this year, it helped raise the money for an electronic sign at 25th and Northampton streets.

Jennifer Stocker, president of the Easton Lions Club, said the group is still going strong despite a drop in volunteers. The group has 26 members right now, about half of when it was formed in 1971. Stocker, 34, said while many of the members are in their 70s, there are some younger volunteers in their 30s and 40s, as well.

Editors Note: Our Uniontown, Ohio Lions Club is still strong and growing. We have added several new members during the current fiscal year and we have a few other prospects that could become members in the next few months. With strong support from the community we are set to be a part of the Uniontown, Ohio landscape for years to come. If you are interested in membership, please fill out our Membership Form