About a year ago, I was packing my bags to attend the Lions Clubs International Convention in Las Vegas. At the time, I had no idea what to expect as one of the two inaugural Leo-Lion Board Liaisons. Now, as I reflect back on my term, co-serving as the Leo Lion Board Liaison has been one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life.
While serving as a Leo-Lion Board Liaison this past year, I had the opportunity to attend four board meetings in various cities. Each meeting offered something a little different, but my ideas and thoughts were always welcomed with open arms from all board members. I was also impressed by the breadth of knowledge and poise that each member possessed.
At each and every forum, I was struck by the diversity and strength of the Leo Club program, and was empowered to return to my community and serve.
This year, I had the privilege of serving on the Membership Development Committee. Our focus was to discuss Leos, young Lions and Leo-Lions and how best to serve them. This determination led us to discussing potential membership benefits for Leo-Lions, recruitment strategies for young people and leadership development opportunities for Leos, young Lions and Leo-Lions. Through surveys and focus groups, we determined that enhancing the current Leo-Lion membership program offered a membership pathway with benefits that were important to Leos.
Forums for learning
I attended the USA/Canada Leo Forum, ELAC Leo Forum, USA/Canada Lions Forum and OSEAL Leo Forum. Each forum gave me the opportunity to meet Leos from around the world, hear their thoughts and ideas through focus groups and better understand the unique situation of each Leo country or region. These focus groups allowed for valuable insights into the Leo to Lion transition, membership benefits and leadership development.
Each forum organizing committee showed great hospitality and hosted organized and fun forums. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Young Lions and Leos Department staff who helped host the focus groups and collect the valuable feedback we received. Lions Clubs International couldn’t be run without the support and hard work of all the staff members in Oak Brook.
Lots of great memories
When reflecting on my experiences at the Leo forums, a few memorable moments come to mind: exploring downtown Manhattan with Leos from across North America, dancing until five in the morning with the Latin American Leos and working through team-building exercises with the OSEAL Leos.
I was also touched by the service activities of each forum. In New York, the Leos organized a service project with a local veterans group. In Uruguay, we helped rebuild a community center using a Lions Clubs International Foundation Leo Grant. And in Malaysia, Leos were able to choose from a variety of projects—I participated in one that focused on mental health. At each and every forum, I was impressed by the diversity and strength of the Leo Club Program, and was inspired to return to my community and serve.
More unforgettable experiences
In December, I participated in a trilingual (English, French and Spanish) town hall for International Leo Day. It was the perfect way to celebrate this great day, and I was moved by the amazing videos submitted for the Leo video contest.
In March, I attended Lions Day with the United Nations in New York where I had the opportunity to listen to Leos as they pitched their service project ideas. Leos also participated in a service project for a women’s shelter in support of International Women’s Day.
On a personal level, I helped charter a new club, the West London Lions Club, for students and young professionals in London, Ontario. Contrary to popular belief, we are a traditional Lions club with members who have an average age of 20. Young people want to be a part of Lions, but we must give them the opportunity to run their own clubs and launch their own initiatives. I would like to thank Past International President Gudrun Yngvadottir and her husband, Past International Director Jon Thorsteinsson, for attending my club’s charter night in March.
Finally, the first Canadian Young Lions Retreat attracted 33 young Lions and Leos (ages 16 to 40) from across Canada for an exciting weekend of workshops, service and fellowship. The goal of the retreat was to empower young Lions and Leos to start more clubs and grow our membership.
Closing thoughts and thank yous
My year on the board was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I am humbled to have been given this opportunity to represent the Leos and young Lions at the highest level of Lions governance. The Leo-Lion Board Liaison position is not about me—it’s about you! The international board gave a voice to 300,000 Leos and young Lions. Thank you, PIP Yngvadottir for launching this groundbreaking position. I can’t wait to see how the role evolves in the future.
To my fellow board members, Lions International staff, Leo Forum organizers, and most importantly, Leos and young Lions, thank you for being so gracious, supportive and helpful during the past year.
The voices of our organization’s Leos and young Lions continue to be represented at the international level with this year’s newly-appointed Leo-Lion board liaisons, Potter Ka Kai Fong from Malaysia and Shahenda Refaat from Egypt!
Kyle Boutilier is a Leo-Lion from Ontario, Canada, and served as one of the first Leo-Lion Board Liaisons for Lions Clubs International’s 2018-2019 Board of Directors.