Lions Club Basketball Program Canceled

Sarah Bethurem

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The Lions Club has hosted numerous basketball programs in Fair Grove for many years now, with the first one being in 1993; however, this year, they announced that they will not be able to do so.

The Lions Club is an international organization that helps out the people in their own community by providing adequate services and resources that individuals need in regards to their vision. More specifically, they provide individuals with eyeglasses; they also cover some of the bills for people who had to have surgery due to their vision. Additionally, some of the money that they receive contributes to a seeing eye dog program.

The Lions Club was established in Fair Grove on March 6th, 1956. This means that they have been a part of our community for over seven decades. The Lions Club has provided an ample amount of services both to and for our community. Andy Hall, a current Lions Club member, stated, “Going way back, we helped with getting local phone lines from Springfield to Fair Grove, we’ve worked alongside the city with sewer problems, we’ve built shelters, and we’ve built a pavilion for the city.” Furthermore, he pointed out, “We give away a one thousand dollar scholarship every year to a high school student.” Finally, the Lions Club helps children in the community who can not afford a trip to the eye doctor, or even new glasses. They help the child and their family by covering the total cost.

The basketball program was first considered by the Lions Club because they wanted to give all kids the opportunity to play basketball, even if they may or may not have continued to play throughout the rest of their schooling. The program was open to kids who were in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, and sixth grade. The cost was ten to fifteen dollars per child, with the program being around six weeks in length. Additionally, the kids would practice and have games in one of Fair Grove’s many gyms from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Hall mentions that they usually had around one hundred twenty participants, give or take.

This will be the first year in over twenty years that the basketball program will not be available for the elementary and middle school students. What exactly is mere reason as to why the basketball program was called off? Mike Bell, Fair Grove’s superintendent, stated, “After visiting with Lions Club members it seems their decision to discontinue the program was due to a combination of factors.  Dwindling participation numbers, the lack of volunteers, gym availability, and concession stand use.” Furthermore, he expressed that the school was happy to provide a place, along with other needed facilities that the program would’ve require. More than anything, however, the clashing of schedules seemed to be the most prominent issue. Due to other sports using the gym, the six week basketball program would’ve been shortened to two or three Saturdays at max, which is not a long duration of time at all, thus the program was called off for the year. Bell added, “The school has provided priority times during the past several years for the Lions Club to utilize for practices and games. With school activity schedules that fluctuate from year to year it does become difficult to accommodate all gym use requests, however we will continue to make it a priority to partner with our local community to make things work when at all possible. We appreciate the community service the Lions Club provides for the citizens of Fair Grove and respect their decision.”  

Another factor that contributed to the cancellation of the program, according to Leslie Mallard, a Farmers Insurance agent, is that the Lions Club was denied the use of a concession stand last year. Leslie Mallard states, “The proceeds from concessions were used to pay the officials and the scorekeepers, who were Fair Grove students.” Overall, there are many reasons as to why the program was called off.

The Fair Grove Lions Club does not currently have any plans in place to continue the basketball program. On the other hand, however, Hall expresses that Lions Club is always in need, and always welcomes new members. Additionally, even though it has not taken off just quite yet, he acknowledges that the Lions Club is eager to start up a LEO Club, which would consist of junior high and high school students.

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