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Leo Club History

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Forty-nine years ago, Coach Jim Graver started the Leo ball rolling. Chances are, that ball was a baseball.

Back in 1957, Graver was the coach of the Abington High School, Pennsylvania, USA, baseball team. Graver was also an active member of the Glenside, Pennsylvania, Lions Club.

With fellow Lion, William Ernst, Graver talked about starting a service club for high school boys. "The Kiwanians had their Key Clubs and the Rotarians had their Wheel Club (since changed to Interact Clubs)," Ernst is quoted as saying in an October 7, 1976 newspaper article in "The Evening Bulletin."

So they asked their fellow Lions for support. Without hesitation, the Glenside Lions agreed that a Lions youth group was a good idea. Graver and Ernst set to work.

"We needed a nucleus, a group of kids to start with," stated Ernst. "So we got Jim's son to come to the first meeting with his whole baseball team." Nine sophomore, junior and senior boys joined the group of 26 baseball players.

Together, the 35 teens formed a club. On December 5, 1957, the Glenside Lions presented a charter to the Abington High School Leo Club.

As the world's first Leo club, the group created the Leo acronym - Leadership, Equality, Opportunity (Equality was later changed to Experience.) And, the group chose maroon and gold - their school colors - to serve as the Leo club colors.

An Idea Whose Time Had Come

The Abington Leos were a singular entity until 1963. In that year, a Leo club was formed at the Tamaqua Area High School in Pennsylvania. Shortly thereafter, a former Philadelphia Lion formed a Leo club in New York. By 1964, there were 27 Leo clubs in Pennsylvania and one in New York.

The circle of junior service clubs was expanding. In October 1967, the board of directors of Lions Clubs International adopted the Leo Club Program as an official program of the association. Open to males and females, the objective of the Leo Club Program was (and still is):

"...to provide the youth of the world (with) an opportunity for development and contribution, individually and collectively, as responsible members of the local, national and international community."

In 1968, newly formed Leo clubs began sending their requests for club certification to International Headquarters. On October 17, 1969, forms requesting certification for the Abington High School Leo Club reached headquarters. On this date, the world's original Leo club was formally recognized as a part of the international Leo program. Leo John Hebert of Baederwood, Pennsylvania, served as president of the Abington High School Leo Club.

Today, the Leo Club Program is stronger than ever. Community service remains the cornerstone of the program. Like their Lion counterparts, Leo club members enjoy serving their neighbors and watching positive results unfold.

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