Patel selected as Deptford Pride Leo of the Year

Senior wants to continue her commitment to service in college.

On Oct. 8 at Fasola Park, Umali Patel (right) was rewarded for her dedication to service with the Deptford Pride Leo of the Year award. Pictured with her, from left, are Joann McCormick and Bob Kleinot. (Photo credit: Umali Patel/Special to the Sun)

Like many affected by COVID-19, a ceremony honoring the Deptford Pride Leo of the Year was delayed several months.

Nonetheless, for Deptford senior Umali Patel, the event afforded her the chance to
catch her breath and get used to the fact that she is the honoree.

“Mrs. (Joann, Leo Club advisor and member of Deptford Lions Club) McCormick texted
me a few months ago, and said I was chosen to receive it,” Patel said of the award
during an Oct. 14 conversation with the Sun.

“At first, I was in shock, because it was the award that any of the Leo members could
receive. I looked at the list, and saw there were 35 people who won it internationally.”

The ceremony ultimately took place outdoors on Oct. 8, at Fasola Park. Though it was
sparsely attended, with only Patel’s fellow Leos, a smattering of parents and some
Lions members there, it was nonetheless a celebration of the student’s commitment.

“I’ve been involved with Leos since freshman year,” Patel explained. “Initially, I wanted
to find a way to do community service. My freshman year was actually the first year of
the Leo Club, started by Mrs. McCormick.

“I had fun with it from there and that’s what kept me going all four years. Mrs.
McCormick was the one who nominated me, for consistent dedication to the club and its
mission.”

Thanks in part to McCormick and Patel’s hard work, the club now boasts 20 full-time
members, with four others currently in the process of joining. Looking back on her high-
school career, Patel reflected on the favorite and meaningful events in which she
participated.

“There are a few things we do annually: a craft show every December at an assisted
living facility, and I really like that, because we get to talk to the residents,” Patel noted.
“And every January, we do a coat drive where we give the coats to various homeless
shelters. We try to choose places close to us.”

Ask Patel what she’s most looking forward to in higher education, and you’ll receive a
typical answer: “Graduation, to be honest,” she mused.

But once she’s found that academic footing, Patel plans to maintain her commitment to
service in a familiar fashion.

“When I go to college, I am strongly considering starting a Leo chapter wherever I go,”
she offered.

Patel’s next step is to complete her associate’s degree in science at Rowan College of
South Jersey, which she will receive upon graduating high school, before leaping into university life full time. She’s looking at various physician assistant programs at Drexel, Seton Hall and Jefferson universities.

“I’m still kind of in shock,” she admitted of the recognition that comes with being an
award winner. “But now that I look back, I’m proud of this. I look back on how much the
club has accomplished, and I realize that everything I do is made possible by the other
members of the club.”

For more information on the Leo Club, visit its Facebook page,
@DeptfordTownshipLionsClub, and for information on the Lions, visit:
https://www.deptfordlions.com/.