The Valparaiso Lions Club welcomed four of their fellow members who took a 1,000 kilometer run in honor of the Club’s 100th anniversary on Thursday. After a long flight from Poland to the United States, the four runners started their journey from Helen Keller’s birthplace in Tuscumbia, Alabama to the annual Lions Convention in Oakbrook, Illinois.
Valparaiso Lions Club President and fourth generation member, Elisha Porterfield, housed the runners, as Valparaiso was one of their final stops before reaching the convention. Porterfield, who was recommended for the job by District Vice Governor Dennis Brown, happily took part in supporting the runners and their goal-service.
“Like our motto says, ‘We serve,’ ” said Brown. “There is so much more that Lions do that people don’t really understand. Everyone thinks that Lions collect glasses, but there is so much more. There is so much more that we do for people that is not known. The more people we can help, the better.”
The runners reflected the values of the Lions Club through their hope to raise 100,000 dollars for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Led by Mariusz Szeib, the team of Daniel Wcislo, Jacek Trębecki, and Mateusz Pietruliński traveled to Riga, Latvia, Hiroshima, Japan, and many other international locations in previous years with the goal to raise money for those in need.
“I am a 25-year member of the Lions Club and a marathonist, and I wanted to use my skills to promote the Lions’ ideals,” said Szeib. “I personally was [in Lebanon] last year, and I saw the humanitarian disaster. So, we decided together to build a school for children who live in Nepal and who are refugees from Syria.”
This philanthropic work and the desire to change lives internationally are reflected within the Valparaiso community. City Administrator Bill Oeding discussed the importance of service clubs with the runners upon their arrival to Valparaiso.
“Currently with a lot of service clubs like the Lions Clubs, they’re struggling to get members and to stay active,” said Oeding. “With international folks coming in, it just shows the strength and health of the club. With service organizations doing community work, the community builds on that, which creates a great environment.”
To celebrate the club’s tenacious endeavors, Porterfield held a dinner at her home that included several classic Hoosier specialties such as chicken noodles, mashed potatoes, and many other dishes that the runners enjoyed after a well-deserved shower. The runners continue their trip tomorrow as they make their way to the annual convention.
Learn more about the Valparaiso Lions Club at http://e-clubhouse.org/sites/valparaisoin/, and find out more about the runners and their mission to further the values of the Lions Club at www.freedomcharityrun.org.