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Seeing their way to Christmas

Haddonfield Lions Clubs sponsor shopping spree for blind, visually impaired kids

Volunteers from the Haddonfield LEOs club assist blind and visually impaired youth selected by the NJ Commission of the Blind at the Haddonfield Area Lions Club’s annual holiday shopping spree event at Target in Cherry Hill. (Special to The Sun/The Sun).

The decades-long annual shopping spree sponsored by the Haddonfield Area Lions Club for blind and visually impaired kids and teens made its return Sunday, Dec. 4 after a COVID pause.

The event, held at Target in Cherry Hill, was the result of a yearly partnership between the Haddonfield Lions and Pennsauken High School LEO volunteers. The shoppers – who number about 25 – are chosen by the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and sponsored by the Lions Clubs. 

The idea came to Dr. Lawrence Ragone, a former Haddonfield Lions Club member, years ago, and was something he had done with the Cherry Hill Lions Club before it disbanded due to dwindling membership.

“This event is the only program that came with us from Cherry Hill,” said Ellen Ragone, Lawrence Ragone’s daughter-in-law and a Cherry Hill resident. 

Lawrence Ragone passed away earlier this year, but donations from his estate as well as the Pennsauken club’s contributions allowed the Haddonfield club to increase the amount each child shopper could spend from $50 to $175.

“The New Jersey Commission (for the Blind) would have waiting lists, because (the kids) don’t shop for themselves, they shop for presents for their parents, their caregivers, bus drivers and teachers, and they just loved it. The kids just loved it,” Ellen Ragone noted.

Members from LEO clubs at Haddonfield Memorial and Pennsauken high schools served as volunteer guides for the children during their shopping experience, helping them find the presents they were looking for.

“We started around 15 years ago having the teenagers who are in the LEO Club take them around shopping so the kids from the commission would form these amazing bonds with the LEO club members,” Ragone explained. “It used to be that we would have like 40 high-school kids volunteer on Sunday morning from 9 to 11 a.m. because they just loved the event. 

“ (The LEOs) loved seeing the kids from the commission and would form relationships that sometimes went over years,” she added, “because they would have the same kids that come to shop and the same LEO Club members came back.”

The Lions Club is an international organization with a mission inspired by Helen Keller to help those who are blind and visually impaired.

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