AS fundraisers go, the Wrexham Maelor Lions Club are among the region’s most prolific.
But they don’t just raise money, they also facilitate opportunities for people who would not otherwise have the chance – for a child with a life-threatening illness and their family to take a much needed holiday for example, or for a group of youngsters to take flight in search of Santa Claus.
Through the Lions’ Young Ambassadors scheme, the Wrexham club has literally changed lives.
Later this year, two of the club’s past ambassadors – Shaun Evans and Kayliegh Jones – will be setting sail on a tall ship for an unforgettable time on the ocean waves, all thanks to the Lions Club’s Shipshape award.
Shaun, the Wrexham Maelor club’s first ambassador three years ago, has cerebral palsy but dedicates all his spare time to volunteering with people ranging from pensioners to young children, and is still expanding the computer club he initiated for local youngsters in his home village of Coedpoeth.
Kayliegh, who became an ambassador the following year, had turned her own life around from one of anti-social behaviour to one volunteering and developing dance and other activities for local youngsters in the Llay area.
Their current ambassador is 16-year-old Polish youngster Maciej Szukala whose extensive volunteering activities range from acting as an unpaid translator, to initiating a young European programme aimed at linking British and Eastern European young people.
And there have been many other schemes through which people, in particular young people, in the area have benefited.
Another youngster from Wrexham, Darland pupil Sunita Punpanya, recently beat 375,000 entries to win Lions International Peace Poster competition. As part of the prize, Sunita visited the Houses of Parliament as well as receiving money to spend on books for herself and her school.
In recent years, the Wrexham club has organised for youngsters to go to Manchester airport and take a flight in search of Santa Claus at Christmas.
These events are organised by Child Flight, a charity which offers flights and holidays for sick and deserving children of all ages. The Lions have also helped to arrange for children with life-threatening illnesses to go on incredible holidays with their families.
The Wrexham Maelor Lions Club is part of the wider Lions Clubs International.
The organisation began in 1917 when Melvin Jones, a Chicago businessman, told members of his local club they should reach beyond their corporate issues and address the betterment of their communities and the world.
Jones' group, the Business Circle of Chicago, agreed and, on June 7, 1917, the Association of Lions Clubs, was born.
Within three years, Lions became an international organisation and today has links with 206 countries and geographic areas.
Wrexham Maelor was Wales’ first Lions club.
“This club was founded in 1963 to raise money for local charities,” Derek Edwards, past president and Mervin Jones fellow, explained.
“In the past we have helped people by donating wheelchairs, providing transport, we have given money to numerous good causes, charities including Nightingale House, Hope House, animal welfare charities like the H.A.C.K. horse sanctuary.
“When they opened the diabetic and renal unit at the Maelor we gave £50,000 towards that for dialysis machines”
But it isn’t just local causes that they contribute to.
President Noel Cleverly added: “We’ve contributed to international appeals as well – the tsunami, Haiti. We look at what the people there need most.”
Noel added: “If someone or some organisation comes to us and we can help we will or we refer them to the right place.”
- Anyone interested in joining the Lions should attend one of their meetings held on the third Wednesday of each month at the Wynnstay Hotel, Wrexham.