Lion January 2013 : Page 30

Lions Invited by White House to Celebrate Service by Kelly Janowski The Champions of Change are (from left) Laura Rieg, Emee Nisnisan, Paul Berman, Nadine Nishioka, Karla Harris, Debbie Whittlesey, Doug Rodenbeck, Greg Jeffrey, Bob Massof, Brad Baker and Mike Buscemi. Photo by Dan Morris

Champions of Change

Kelly Janowski

Lions Invited by White House to Celebrate Service

A drizzly day in Washington, D.C., couldn’t dampen the spirit of the nearly 200 Lions who descended on the nation’s capital for the Lions Champions of Change event last fall.

At the invitation of the White House, 11 Lions from across the country were honored for their work. From environmental efforts to disaster relief and youth development, the men and women recognized represent the vast array of community service projects Lions around the world complete to improve the lives of others.

“All 11 honored champions represented very different Lion service activities,” says Greg Jeffrey, a Lion from Indiana recognized for his medical mission trips to Central America. “This was truly a special group of Lions chosen to represent all Lions throughout the world.”

The day included community briefings about health care and issues critical to Lions service projects. In the afternoon, the champions participated in panel discussions highlighting service opportunities and challenges within their community.

Debbie Whittlesey, who was recognized for her work following a devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri, says the experience rattled her nerves.

“When I stepped off the plane, I was really nervous thinking to myself, ‘How am I possibly going to put into words what Lions are doing and what Lions have done?’” Whittlesey says. “I remember looking out over the audience and seeing all the smiles and feeling the warmth from those in the room as each champion was interviewed. It was then that I realized I was with family.”

The event was also broadcast around the world live. Thousands of people tuned in to view the panel discussions. Brad Baker, a Lion honored as the CEO of Mid- South Lions Sight and Hearing Service, Inc., says the video gave viewers a comprehensive look at service.

“When many people think of Lions, they unfortunately think of an old men’s group selling pancakes and buying glasses,” Baker says. “People who watched the webcast came away with information about the multiple, wide-ranging programs carried out by everyday heroes.”

Whittesley said she had a similar experience when her coworkers and friends watched the broadcast back at home.

“[My coworker] said, ‘It is amazing what the Lions club is doing. I had no idea.’ Hopefully, many others had the same reaction,” Whittesley says.

Emee Nisnisan, a Texas Lion recognized for her work developing family-friendly clubs and providing health care in her community, says being a champion of change has inspired her to do more for her community.

“My experience at the White House made me want to be a Lion forever, to serve more and be a mentor to my fellow Lions and the younger generation who will be the leaders of tomorrow,” Nisnisan says.

Baker agrees that learning from his fellow champions invigorated him.

“Gaining information and inspiration from all the champions makes me want to expand our collective service,” Baker says. “I am a better Lion and a better person for the experience.”

Whittlesley says she looks forward to using the enthusiasm she gained at the White House in her community.

“Every time I think my Lion life cannot be topped, something new and wonderful comes my way,” Whittlesey says. “Life is better when you are a Lion!”

Extraordinary Service to Others

They’re all Lions—and Champions of Change, too. Honored for service in their own communities and beyond, the following men and women have been recognized by the White House for their constant commitment to helping others.

Mike Buscemi

More than 12 million children worldwide have learned positive life skills partly because of Thornville, Ohio, Lion Mike Buscemi. His development of the 30-yearold Lions Quest program serves as a deterrent to drug use and teaches students the self-confidence needed to make the right decisions.

Brad Baker

The CEO of the Mid-South Lions Sight and Hearing Service, Inc., Baker is a member of the Jonesboro University Heights Lions Club in Arkansas. The organization provides sight and hearing care to people in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri. His club provides more than $10,000 in eyeglasses to people in need annually.

Karla N. Harris

A South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lion, Harris is a corneal tissue transporter, preschool vision screener and a volunteer on eyeglass missions in other countries. She supports BOLD Racing, in which the visually impaired get behind the wheel of a race car with the assistance of a sighted person riding with them.

Dr. Paul Berman

A member of the Hackensack, New Jersey, Lions Club, Dr. Berman is the founder and senior global clinical adviser of the Special Olympics’ Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program, now in 80 countries and 45 states. More than 90,000 Special Olympics athletes now have prescription eyewear because of this program.

Gregory L. Jeffrey

A member of the Fort Wayne Central Lions Club in Indiana since 1985, Jeffrey leads annual medical missions to Latin America. Each trip requires one year of planning, and some teams have included as many as 70 volunteers and medical professionals. He has led the missions to help thousands of people in need since 2004.

Robert W. Massof

Massof is a member of the Baltimore Brooklyn Lions Club in Maryland. A professor of ophthalmology and neuroscience, he is the founder and director of the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center, a division of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. Massof is working on a pilot program to make low vision rehabilitation services more accessible.

Laura Rieg

A member of the Portsmouth Children First, Virginia, Lions Club and a special education teacher, Rieg focuses on providing early childhood development opportunities for families in need. The club buys adaptive playground equipment, glasses and hearing aids for children.

Nadine Nishioka

A member of the Honolulu Manoa Waioli, Hawaii, Lions Club, Nishioka is focused on beautifying the community and keeping the island’s parks and recreation areas pristine. She also focuses on feeding families in need.

Douglas Rodenbeck

Rodenbeck is committed to Leo clubs. As a member of the Anthony Wayne Lions Club in Indiana, he led a Leo fundraising drive to provide accommodations for families of those undergoing treatment at a hospital’s burn unit. A Lion for 33 years, he taught school fire prevention for 35 years.

Maria Emee M. Nisnisan

A registered nurse and medical practice administrator, Nisnisan puts her experience to good use to provide health care to the underprivileged. She and other Houston Royal Oaks Lions in Texas coordinate health fairs, free flu immunizations and breast cancer awareness and screening events.

Debbie Whittlesey

A Lebanon Host, Missouri, Lion, Whittlesey quickly mobilized Lions to provide assistance to residents of nearby Joplin when an F-5 tornado cut a devastating path through the town. They distributed food, water, work gloves and pitched in to help people.

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