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Lions club donates bus

June 30, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The Lions Club here is stepping up efforts to keep Calexico's Valley Orthopeadic clinic open.

Sam Villanueva, Lions Club regional chairman and the highest-ranking Lion in Imperial County, said Thursday, "We can't just let it die."

Clinic administrators have sought help from the Lions Club and others because rising costs and the ever-increasing age of the clinic's long-time benefactors have made it hard to continue offering life-changing operations to needy children.

The Lions Club has responded in part by donating a bus to the clinic on Thursday night. Villanueva said more help is on the way.

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The Valley Orthopaedic Clinic transports needy children to Los Angeles for operations in a fleet of buses or provides care to the children at its Heber Avenue and First Street location.

The clinic has operated since 1962. It was founded by Dr. Robert B. Nichols and Van De Graaff, an INS inspector at the time. Celebrated physicians such as Dr. Charles Leroy Lehman, among many others, have donated their time to help clinic patients.

The bus donated by the Lions Club was donated to the club by the Association of Retarded Citizens.

"They phased one of their buses out and we're giving it to the orthopaedic clinic," Villanueva said.

Over the years, the Lions Club has been one of the biggest supporters of the clinic.

"We run a house in Mexicali. We keep them there (needy patients and their families) and we feed them. Then they come over here and we take ‘em to Los Angeles," Villanueva said.

He said it's all a part of the Lions Club mission of serving the youth.

Since the inception of the Lions Club in 1917 by founder Melvin Jones of Chicago, the club has raised millions of dollars for a number of causes.

Villanueva listed a good number of them.

"We do pretty good here. You can not believe the things we are in to," he said.

In addition to supporting the Helen Keller Knights of the Blind, an organization that supports blindness research, the Lions have set up a camp in the mountains for hearing-impaired kids.

The club supports Guide Dogs of the Desert in Riverside County, the City of Hope in Duarte and programs to help solve speech problems among the youth.

"We do the Lion's Eye Health Awareness for diabetes," Villanueva said.

Then there is the Lions Club project for canine companions.

"They open doors, turn on lights that sort of stuff," he said of the canine companions.

Villaneuva said in closing, "We can talk for days on how much the Lions do."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or aclaverie@aol.com

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