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20120512 Leos PET Workday lg-15MISSION — There is always a cause to be addressed within the community, and when the need is there, a Mission-based organization is prepared to assist.

“When there is injustice, we will be there. When there is a hungry mouth to feed, we will be there. There is always a cause,” said Sharyland High School English teacher and Leo Club sponsor Julissa Sanchez. “That’s why I say that Leos never sleep.”

Leo Clubs are sponsored by local Lions Clubs through Lions Club International. The first Leo Club was started in 1957 by the Glenside Lions Club in Pennsylvania. There are currently more than 5,700 Leo Clubs in approximately 140 countries. The Sharyland Leo Club, with over 60 members, is sponsored by the Mission Lions Club.

Looking for ways to help others, Sanchez found exactly what she was looking for when she was volunteered to become the SHS Leo Club sponsor last summer.

“Over the summer I had told my husband that I wanted to work with the community and make a difference in the world. When I told him all the ideas I had he said, ‘It sounds like you need an army with all you want to do,’” she recalled. “A week later, I received a phone call from Esmer Muñoz, who was leading the Leo Club for the past couple of years, and she told me that our test coordinator had signed me up as a sponsor for this club called Leo.’”

Not having a clue as to what the club was at the time, Sanchez wasn’t too happy about being drafted. However, once she started working with the Leos she realized it must’ve been God’s way of giving her the help her husband told her she needed to accomplish what was in her heart.

“I certainly got an army of 60 kids that wanted to make a difference in the world as well,” she said. “We’re a testimony to the fact that there can be change in our community and in life.”

With fund raising and community service projects that included Sight Night where they collected used eye glasses for the visually impaired; Share Your Christmas which raised $2,500 for the Rio Grande Valley Food Bank; Vida Verde Family Day Festival where they supported the preservation of the Earth; a 5K run which raised over $2,000 toward scholarships; the Happy Feet Project in which they collected $615 toward the purchase of socks for needy children and “Got Jeans?”, a drive to collect used pairs of jeans for needy kids and teenagers, the Sharyland Leo Club has had a productive 2011-2012 school year.

With the proceeds from the 5K run, the Sharyland Leo Club gave out three scholarships totaling $1,800 to deserving graduating juniors and seniors this school year.

“We had initially planned on giving out $1,500 in scholarships but we were so impressed by the 10 applicants that went to semi-finals for interviews that we decided to give it all out,” said Sanchez.

Recently, eight members of the Sharyland Leo Club added another community service project to their list of activities when they devoted a Saturday morning to helping at the PET Project workday in Mission.

“PET is an acronym for Personal Energy Transportation. PETs are hand-cranked three wheeled carts for people that have lost the use of their legs due to birth defects or as a result of illnesses such as polio, accidents or landmine explosions,” explained Stan Marley, Mission PET Project coordinator. “We build them here in Mission and then we ship them into Mexico where their wheelbarrow-like wheels make them more practical on rough and unpaved roads and paths than wheel chairs.”

The Sharyland Leo Club members that helped assemble PETs were Alejandra Jaime, Sera Kong, Dana Rodriguez, Joel Rodriguez, Rachael Kang, Ah Young Kim and Jorge Guerra Jr. Some spent the morning painting boards while others worked side-by-side with Mission Lions Club members to assemble the 2 1/2 PETs that they built that morning.

“Today I came here without knowing exactly what I was going to be doing. At first I didn’t know what it (PET) was, but then I discovered what it was for and how they’re going to be using it and it made me feel as if I was doing something great for people,” said Alejandra.

Even with school closing for the summer, Sharyland Leo Club members aren’t taking a break. Fifteen members have signed up to volunteer at the Rio Grande Valley Diabetes Association’s Camp Energy in mid-June and many are planning on spending one Saturday a month throughout the summer at the PET Project workdays. It’s become an ongoing service project for the club.

The Sharyland Leos will also participate in fundraising activities this summer that will help fund an event they have planned for early next school year.

“In order to start a fund for our Family Festival that will be held the second week of school and which will be a fundraiser for our spring scholarships, we need to start accruing some money that can be used towards that fund,” said Sanchez.

That fundraising includes a car wash while Sharyland teachers are in their in-service work sessions. The cost is set at $10, Sanchez said.

The Family Festival will be the club’s big fall event and fundraiser.

“September 7th is our only open Friday with no football game. We’re going to have a Back to School Family Festival,” she said. “All proceeds will be going towards the scholarships that we offer in the spring.”

The event will be held in the school parking lot with clubs, organizations and family-based local businesses. The fundraiser will also feature musical acts, dancers and DJs.

“We are looking for sponsors to take care of moon jumps, we want a rock climbing wall and we’ve got clubs doing cake walks. It’s going to be a really cool event and we hope that people that like going to a game will go to our Family Festival,” Sanchez said. “We’re going to invite all of Sharyland including elementary and middle school students, teachers and families. It will definitely be a family-friendly environment.”

For more information on volunteer opportunities with the PET Project in Mission, contact Stan Marley at 956-279-6816. For more information on the Sharyland Leo Club, including sponsorship opportunities, contact club sponsor Julissa Sanchez at 956-580-5300 extension 1339.

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