As a child, SOWI athlete PJ Taylor used to attend summer camp at the Wisconsin Lions Camp in Rosholt, Wisconsin. The experiences were a highlight of Taylor’s youth, and the memories have stayed with him to adulthood.
But they haven’t just remained fond childhood memories of boating and singing camp songs. The summer camp left such an impression that it inspired him to want to make his community better, just as the Lions Clubs do as members of the world’s largest service club organization.
“I wanted to give back to people and help kids and adults have as much fun as I had when I was there (at Lions Camp),” PJ said.
With that in mind, PJ set out to start his own Lions Club chapter. In January, the Winners Circle Lions Club in Madison celebrated its two-year anniversary. And perhaps the best part is that it is a truly Unified chapter. They even count many SOWI athletes among their current group of 21 members.
Through the SOWI connection, the Winners Circle has been very involved in volunteering for SOWI events. Earlier this month, they helped prepare for the Madison Polar Plunge by stuffing the goodie bags given out to the plungers. And next on their agenda with SOWI is helping to run some education stations at some of the spring competitions.
As athletes themselves, the Winners Circle members know the importance of volunteer work for the success of SOWI events. Taylor and his wife, Angie, are both bocce and basketball players with the YMCA of Dane County agency. Angie also serves in a leadership role as vice president for the Winners Circle. She helped PJ start the chapter and grow it to the robust group it’s become.
“We wanted to give people a chance to get involved. We wanted to help them out,” Angie said.
But PJ and Angie haven’t been without their own help. New Lions Clubs have a Guiding Lion to help them start and get established in the early years of a new chapter. The Guiding Lion for the Winners Circle is Jodi Burmester, a 25-year veteran of the Lions Club. Burmester has served in many roles over the years with Lions Clubs and is currently the district governor for the southwest part of Wisconsin, but acting as the Guiding Lion for the Winners Circle holds a special place in her heart.
“This is my favorite Lions thing we’ve ever done,” Burmester said. “It’s so cool that they get to do this.”
Burmester helped PJ and Angie start the group and helps them coordinate volunteer opportunities. In two years they’ve done a wide variety of things like park clean-ups, Stuff the Bus book and school supply drives, and Salvation Army bell ringing during the holidays. Burmester is especially looking forward to helping the Winners Circle participate in their first health and wellness education stations this spring at SOWI events. “Anything we can do to help address health, it’s for the good of all,” Burmester said.
Through their service, the Winners Circle Lions Club is definitely working for the good of all, including themselves. “I love hanging out with friends and doing cool stuff like bell ringing,” said member and SOWI athlete Deborah Ogum.
Ogum’s best friend, Beth Brady, loves everything about Winners Circle but particularly likes how it gets her out of her comfort zone and makes her more social. “It sure helps me meet new people,” Brady said.
Even if measured strictly by how much fun the group members have, the first two years of the Winners Circle Lions Club have been an unqualified success in recreating the positive atmosphere of PJ’s childhood summers at the Wisconsin Lions Camp.
But above and beyond that, the Winners Circle is definitely making their community better, as Lions Clubs are wont to do. “As long as we’re giving back, that’s what matters,” PJ said.
For more information on the Winners Circle Lions Club, contact PJ Taylor at (608) 279-4590 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jodi Burmester at email@example.com.