Drew Evans, a sophomore at The John Carroll School in Bel Air and president of the VolunTeen Leo Club for Harford County, was named “Leo of the Year” by local and state Lions Club International officials, an honor given to about 35 youths around the globe each year.
Evans, 16, of Bel Air, founded the Harford County VolunTeen club with his mother, Brooke Hopkins, in the fall of 2018. He serves as club president and chair of its youth board of directors.
“It’s a great honor to get Leo of the Year,” said Evans, who was recognized for his leadership as the club performed multiple community service projects, including recent fundraising initiatives to support residents battling cancer.
“I couldn’t do it without my teen board and all the volunteers in the county,” Evans added.
The Leo of the Year recognition was presented to Evans on Monday in the garden of the Kaufman Cancer Center at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air, at the same time he and other club leaders presented a $23,130 donation to the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation.
The club’s contribution was the largest portion of about $150,000 raised through the 8th annual Amanda Hichkad CCA Celebration Walk. All funds raised through the walk, held Saturday in a virtual format, support Cancer LifeNet, a University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health program to provide free support services to residents of Cecil and Harford counties who are battling cancer.
“Even though it was a virtual walk, our community came together to celebrate honor and remember loved ones who have battled cancer, while raising funds for Cancer LifeNet,” said Teddy Mosher, development and communications officer for the UCH Foundation.
Multiple services are available through Cancer LifeNet, such as patient support groups, financial advice, nurse navigators and social workers. All services are funded through philanthropy and donations, according to Mosher, who noted that many community fundraising events could not happen this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The virtual Amanda Hichkad walk did happen, though, and “it was so great to see the community outpouring of support,” Mosher said.
He added that it was “incredible” to have the VolunTeen Leo club involved in the walk, and that “we value their partnership as community leaders in the efforts to provide free-of-charge services to individuals battling cancer.”
“We’re extremely grateful for the work that VolunTeen Leo did, and we’re looking forward to working with them in the future,” Mosher said.
The VolunTeens put together several initiatives over the past two months to raise money for the cancer walk, such as a cornhole tournament. About 75 club members also went out the day before Easter and hid eggs filled with candy around 250 houses throughout the county — homeowners could then, in exchange for a donation, host Easter morning egg hunts for neighborhood children on their property.
The club also did “Cakes for a Cause,” through which donors could bake a cake using a recipe developed by a local pastry chef. Donors also could enter a raffle to win a Yeti cooler filled with items donated by local breweries and restaurants, according to Evans and Hopkins.
“It’s great that we were able to raise so much money to support people that need it,” Evans said.
Lions Club International is a global community service organization, and the Leo clubs are opportunities for youth Lions members to develop leadership skills and give back to their communities, according to the Lions International web site.
There are about 1.4 million Lions around the world, including about 140,000 Leos who provide an “amazing, amazing amount of service,” Dave Guzewich, advisor to the Harford County Leo club, said Monday.
The VolunTeen Leos are sponsored by the Bel Air Lions, and the youth organization was chartered as a Lions Clubs International Alpha Leo Club in 2019, according to the Bel Air Lions website.
Ken Spoerl, president of the Bel Air Lions, praised the VolunTeen club members for their “unbelievable” collaboration and partnership with the adult Lions on initiatives such as the club’s largest annual fundraiser, its Christmas tree sale. The Leos also helped build about 150 desks for local children learning virtually at home during the pandemic and grow vegetables in the Bel Air community garden, to donate to local shelters.
“We are very proud of having these young men and women here in Harford County, to do such community service,” Spoerl said.
Jim Katzaman, district governor for the Lions International District 22A serving Central Maryland, presented the award to Evans. He noted that the teen is Leo of the Year for all Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. districts in Multiple District 22.
The VolunTeen club has about 170 active members and around 1,400 other youths who participate in various club activities and projects. Many participants are local student-athletes, Hopkins noted, including her son, who runs cross country and does track and field for the Patriots.
Evans said it is “really fun” to do community service projects with his friends, noting that the work “brings everyone together to support a greater cause.”
Hopkins said her son and his fellow Leos have similar goals, plus they “live good lives,” and they “don’t really want for anything.”
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“They need to learn to give back, and this is the perfect opportunity,” she said.