Yarn has never served such a worthy purpose. Anthem Associates from southern California teamed up with the Camarillo Amber's Light Lions Club from Camarillo, California, to make Disney-themed, soft yarn wigs for children with cancer. The Alaska-based non-profit, The Magic Yarn Project, is transforming the way pediatric cancer patients manage hair loss and cope with grueling chemotherapy treatments.

“These soft princess wigs help bring some fun to little girls during difficult and sometimes scary times as they deal with cancer treatments,” says Chris Graham, a Camarillo Amber’s Light Lion, who notes that crochet skills are not required. “It is a heartwarming project that so many Lions can participate in. The smiles on the faces of these children just melt your heart. It's such a good feeling to know we can make a difference.” Anthem Associates were so moved by this project they requested that Lions plan a second day of volunteering.

Nearby, approximately 100 Anthem associates gathered over two days to assemble more than 2,500 hygiene kits for displaced families of California’s recent wildfires. With the recent California disasters, club president and PDG Manny Sanchez says his Montebello Lions took on the challenge of “where there’s a need, there’s a Lion,” and chose to provide the kits as a way to help. In addition, kits were delivered to the Long Beach Veterans Administration and Southern California Homeless Centers.

Further south, Anthem Associates in Las Vegas, Nevada, spent the evening of October 15, 2018 on a downtown Las Vegas street corner helping Lion Pam Phan and fellow Lions from the Las Vegas Vietnamese- American Lions Club distribute food to the city’s homeless. On any given night in southern Nevada there are more than 6,000 homeless individuals on the street. Nearly 1,300 of them are unaccompanied minors. For this reason Anthem associates teamed up with Lions for two additional hunger related projects: serving meals at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission and building a chicken coop at Vegas Roots—a community garden that provides fresh food to low income residents, teaches community gardening, and promotes nutritional wellness.

Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and the Anthem Foundation have committed to improving the health and wellness of communities since 2015. Every fall, the Lions- Anthem Volunteer Days kick off a season-long community service program that takes place across the United States with support from an annual grant awarded by the Anthem Foundation. The 2018 partnership brought together Anthem volunteers and Lions in 31 cities across 21 states. Nearly 400 local Lions club members joined more than 1,500 Anthem volunteers in a total of 65 service projects that promoted happier, healthier communities.

For Janice Hutchings Wilson, Anthem Foundation Program Manager and Anthem Volunteer Days lead, being part of her community is not only fun but rewarding. “When you are a part of a team of volunteers that includes fellow employees, family members, along with community partners, it creates this special bond between everyone,” said Wilson. “These memories of knowing you made a difference are an important part of connecting with each other, whether it be at work or in your personal life.”

Seemingly small acts of service, conducted over just a few hours, make a big health and wellness impact on lives across the U.S. Other projects from this year’s Volunteer Days events included working in food banks, distributing donated mattresses to children who do not have a bed of their own, and beautification of domestic violence shelters to provide simple comfort to women and children escaping life-threatening circumstances.

The grant support from the Anthem Foundation to LCIF also spurs year-round, Lion- and community-led humanitarian and capacity building initiatives through the Lions-Anthem Foundation Healthy Heroes initiative. Aiming to improve the health of communities across the country, the Healthy Heroes initiative awards grants to Lions clubs and districts with programs that support improved health outcomes. The goal is to build up local health and wellness capacities through projects like the establishment of accessible playgrounds or upgrades to critical clinics, hospitals, and community centers.

Since 2015, Lions-Anthem Volunteer Days and Lions-Anthem Healthy Heroes have contributed more than 25,000 hours of community service, benefitting more than 1.4 million people with improved health and wellness. U.S.-based Lions Clubs interested in hosting projects for the 2019 Lions-Anthem Volunteer Days season are encouraged to contact programs@lionsclubs.org.

“I enjoy giving back because at one point in my life, I was on the receiving end of things, so whenever I can be of service to the community, I do that.” Las Vegas, Nevada Anthem Associate

“The best thing about this project was meeting local people in need, listening to their struggles, and learning action steps we could take to help.” Indianapolis, Indiana Anthem Associate