Hearts of lions

LEO Club thriving at Wilder Middle School
Wilder Middle School teacher Sandra Small (center, behind a student) gathers her LEO Club students.
Sandra Small started the first LEO Club in Henrico County at L. Douglas Wilder Middle School to get students involved in their communities.

So far, so good.

The LEO Club Program is a youth version of the International Lions’ Club, an organization focused on helping communities through individual and collective contributions. LEO stands for “Learning, Experience, Opportunity.”

As a member of Eastern Henrico's Battlefield Park Lions Club, Small, an eighth-grade civics and economics teacher, organized the formation of the LEO Club at Wilder and participated in the charter ceremonies on April 30.

“Our motto is to serve. We offer aid and finance to vision and hearing organizations around the world,” Small said about the Lions Club, which also offers immediate financial support and supplies for those suffering from natural disasters.

President Kie’Auntae Parsons, Vice President Brittany Hubbard, Treasurer Arlette Howkins and Secretary Briana Bailey took their positions as the officers of the club and signed the charter at the closing of the ceremony.

Currently, the club has 30 members – 29 eighth-graders and one sixth-grader.

“We helped with the Central Virginia Food Bank back in November and December,” Small said. “In February, we decorated Valentine’s Day boxes and now we are working on a recycling project. We’ve already saved an unbelievable amount of paper.”

Club members at Wilder Middle School already have plans to start LEO Clubs at other Henrico County schools. Many of Small’s students will be moving on to Henrico High School and are eager to start a club there.

“I told my students that I would meet with their principal to get the club started and that I could come to the meetings at times when my other club didn’t meet,” Small said. “I hope that students will want to start a LEO Club wherever they go. I think it’s important that we fill in for our generation that is too busy or do not have the time to help out more in the community.”

The 107,000 Lions of Japan are receiving help from club members all over the world. The Lions Club International foundation has raised more than $7 million to aid Japan, and many have provided emergency relief supplies toward recovery efforts. With 40 years of disaster relief experience already under its belt, the foundation is always ready to help.

Following the destructive storms that recently hit the Southern United States, Lions have donated $400,000 as well as food boxes and medical supplies toward relief efforts in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

While the international organization fulfills activities such as fundraising and disaster relief, the LEO Club accommodates youths between the ages of 12 and 18 who want to gain leadership experience and commit themselves to their communities.

The earliest LEO Club was established in Pennsylvania in 1957 but did not become official until 10 years later.

Wilder Middle School opened its doors April 30 at 7 p.m. for the first LEO Club induction ceremony in Henrico County. The evening began with a line of speakers followed by the induction of the LEO officers. Since the LEO Club is sponsored by the Battlefield Park Lions Club and the West Breakfast Lions, many members from both organizations were present to congratulate the newly initiated youths.
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