The Northern Highlands Regional High School Leo Club has been named a winner of Lions International “Award of Excellence.” Presented at the most recent meeting of the Northern Highlands Board of Education, the award is the highest award in its category bestowed by the international service organization.
Leo Clubs are school or community-based clubs organized and operating for the purpose of providing middle and high school students the opportunity to experience the rewards of serving others. In addition to helping young people learn the meaning of leadership and service, the clubs assist members to develop their own skill set and to prepare young men and women for a lifetime of community involvement and contribution to society.
Established in 2012, the Northern Highlands Leo Club was the first of the four local school-based clubs sponsored by the Saddle River Valley Lions. Explaining the reason for establishing the Leo Clubs, Lions Past District Governor, John Romano, said that “in a day and age service to self has, for many, replaced the idea of service to others. Leo Clubs are helping to inculcate important values, particularly those about helping others who are less fortunate.”
Dr. David Verducci, chairman of the Lions’ Leo Committee, agreed, adding that “the Northern Highlands Leos have learned these lessons extremely well. In the past four years their service projects have included eyeglass collection drives, visits to hospital pediatric wards, participation in Relay for Life, book drives, spending days off from school working with Habitat for Humanity, and much, much more.”
While the Leos’ service is not done to gain recognition for themselves, their good works have not gone unnoticed. Unbeknownst to the Leos or their advisors, this past August, the S.R.V. Lions nominated Northern Highlands for the Lions International Leo Award of Excellence. The award recognizes outstanding achievement by Leos in the areas of humanitarian service, fundraising, leadership, public relations, and club administration. It is the highest distinction a Leo Club can achieve.
The award is definitely not given lightly. Each application is first reviewed locally and then, if found to be worthy, the nomination goes to the District Governor for further consideration. Only after the ‘green light’ is given at the local and district levels, does the application then move on to receive a third thorough review by the awards committee of Lions International.
In describing the significance of the award, Verducci attempted to put it into perspective. “Since first being established in 1957, there are now more than 6,500 Leo Clubs in approximately 140 countries whose members are connected to the 1.3 millions Lions worldwide. During the Lions’ year 2014-2015, only 66 Awards of Excellence were given worldwide. Of these, only 18 were awarded in the United States, with only one given in New Jersey.”
After the actual presentation of the award, Kimberly Kender, the current Northern Highlands faculty advisor to the Leo Club, seemed to sum up the feelings of her student Leos. She thanked the Lions Club saying that “it is so encouraging to have this much support for what the Leos have accomplished as well as all we aspire to do.”
The Saddle River Valley Lions Club is a regional club that also sponsors Leo Clubs in the Cavallini Middle School in Upper Saddle River, Mahwah High School, and the Brookside School in Allendale.
Classified as a 501C(3) non-profit entity, the Saddle River Valley Lions Club has raised and distributed more than $2,260,000 since its inception. 100% of its net proceeds go directly to the charities that the Club supports with none of the funds raised being used to meet administrative expenses, a cost borne by the Lions themselves.
For more information about membership opportunities and the many worthwhile programs and activities of either the Saddle River Valley Lions Club, or the Leo Clubs, check out the club’s Facebook page and visit their website at www.SRVLions.org.