School for deaf and blind students ‘believe,’ thanks to River Hills Lions

Club gives $3,000 to boost fine arts department

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comDecember 8, 2012 

— Some guests couldn’t see them, others couldn’t hear them. But a handful of young people felt the River Hills Lions Club there.

The club hosted its Christmas dinner Dec. 4 at River Hills Country Club. They also hosted several students from the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in concert. It’s an annual tradition now, as is the donation the Lions present to the school.

This year it was for $3,000 toward the fine arts department. Ann Akerman, chief executive officer with The Walker Foundation in support of the school, said the local gift allows students to participate in “the types of things they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.” There are three schools at the Spartanburg campus, one each for blind, deaf and sensory disability.

Students take field trips to ballet performances, incorporate music or art into the classroom experience and, as several showed, entertain audiences – all made possible through donations.

“They believe they can,” Akerman told the Lions, “because you believe we can.”

Margaret Park is president of the school and member of the Spartanburg Lions Club. Park is an educator who believes academics must come first, but said fine arts are a way to enforce those studies.

“It’s a whole lot more fun to be able to make the solar system out of paper mache, than just to read about it,” she said.

Plus, the arts education itself is important, she said.

“We need to be developing well-rounded students,” Park said.

Students also received a visit from Father Christmas at the dinner where Lions recognized their own for recent and past service. The Melvin Jones Award is the highest honor a club member can receive. Five past recipients voted to name Tommy Haughton as this year’s recipient.

“The Melvin Jones Fellowship is the highest form of recognition and embodies humanitarian ideas consistent with the nature and purpose of Lionism and our motto – we serve,” said Lion and presenter R.J. Phillips.

Haughton spent several years as club treasurer and also participated with golf tournaments, raffles, the directory and benefit dinners.

Also honored was Karen Otteni, who received the Unsung Hero Award. Otteni was recognized for work with River Hills Community Church, York Place, Clover Area Assistance Center and Mayday Project.

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