Looking back: Burgess Hill District Lions’ 60 years service

The Lions donated teddy bears to ambulances to comfort young patients
The Lions donated teddy bears to ambulances to comfort young patients

As the Burgess Hill District Lions enter their 60th year they are aiming to continue their tireless good work in the community by raising £60,000 for the disadvantaged.

Since 1955 they have helped those less fortunate than themselves through fund raising, volunteer work and donations.

The first ‘Lions International’ organisation began in 1917 in the US with aims of ‘service in the community and assistance to the less fortunate’.

Three years later it extended to Canada, then China in 1926, Sweden in 1948, London in 1949, until Burgess Hill District Lions became the 21st club in 1955.

The important objective of a Lions club is to encourage service minded people to help their communities without personal financial reward and to promote high ethical standards in commerce, industry, professions, public works and private endeavours.

Lions aim to help others by giving sympathy to those in distress, aid to the weak and substance to the needy.

One of the first acts of the Burgess Hill District Lions was to build a new £500 Scouts hut, part of which was raised with the proceeds of an obscure flannel dance.

Next they funded an adventure playground on Chanctonbury Road which is still there today. In 1958 the Lions bought a £300 community service van for a meals-on-wheels service.

They have organised special concerts for pensioners, and send elderly people on yearly trips around the countryside, whilst on Christmas they have personally delivered food parcels to needy families and held an event for the elderly.

Pantomimes have been held for disadvantaged children at The Martlets, Burgess Hill, as has an annual bonfire night party with fireworks for disabled children.

Burgess Hill Bike Ride

Burgess Hill Bike Ride

Novel pillow phones enabled patients at Cuckfield Hospital to talk without leaving their beds.

The Lions gave to eye camps in India after the famous American author Helen Keller, herself blind and deaf, addressed a convention in 1925 urging them to be her ‘Knights of the Blind’.

On discovering that local paramedics did not have a defibrillator to resuscitate heart patients, the Lions supplied one and inspired a widow to donate another in memory of her late husband. Since then they have donated 14 defibrillators to the community.

Cuddly toys are given to young accident victims in ambulances when they are away from home to reduce trauma, courtesy of the Lions.

One little boy with multiple medical problems could not be left unattended in his home for any length of time. A play area where the child could move around without coming to any physical harm was needed. The Lions Club responded with the planning, funding and building of a brand new soft play room in the garden of his home in Junction Road, Burgess Hill, along with specialised soft play equipment. The youngster and his friends now have complete freedom and a better life.

The Lions have collected redundant hearing aids for re-cycling and distribution to Third World countries, and funded drilling wells to supply fresh water to villages in Africa.

Thanks to Colin Owens, Terry Walls and Harry Addison with stalwart helpers Joan Thomsett and Vi Rowlands, over the past 12 years the Book Den in Church Walk, Burgess Hill, has been a successful fund-raiser, selling second hand books, records and videos that are donated to the Lions.

Over the past few years, the Burgess Hill District Lions, with the Round Table, organised the yearly bike ride as part of the Burgess Hill Festival Week. The Lions’ share of the proceeds from the event has been donated to the St Peter and StJames Hospice.

Gillian Perry, head teacher at Woodlands Meed, said: “Lions have supported Woodlands Meed since we started.

Members of the local Lions group have given their time through visits and joining in school events. One Lion has even become a key member of our Governing Body representing the community, others have ensured that other local groups are aware of us and what we do, and we have had special visits from the High Sheriff and local councillors as a result of these links. It is important to us as a special school to have this commitment and interest from outside as we want to be part of the whole community, so that our pupils are an accepted part of it too.”

The Lions have also ensured that each of the school’s sites has a potentially life-saving defibrillator.

“On a practical level, Lions have supported the school by providing substantial prizes for raffles to help us in our own efforts to raise funds for the extras that the school budget can’t buy, or to provide books from the Book Den,” the head teacher added.

“Some pupils from our school have had specialist equipment or therapeutic equipment bought for them by the Lions which helps them overcome their special need or disability.

“One of the most amazing things the Lions have done is to buy a class set of iPads for groups of pupils who have little language, this helps the young person to communicate and also helps the school develop best practice in special education and in home school links.

“Burgess Hill District Lions have been constant supporters of our school, through personal commitment, financial commitment and also by developing community opportunities we might not have had without them.”

The Lions Birthday year began this month.

The group will celebrate its 60th birthday on April 1, 2015.