One of my favorite musicals is Brigadoon. According to the Playbill, New Yorkers Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas have traveled to the Scottish Highlands, but they get lost on their first night out. They begin to hear music coming from a nearby village that does not appear on their map of the area. They head over there to get directions back to their inn, and find a fair in progress, with villagers dressed in traditional Scottish tartan. Tommy and Jeff wander into the village and ask where they are; the villagers answer “Brigadoon.” While there, Tommy meets Fiona, and the three of them arrive at Mr. Lundie’s home, where he relates a story that the two New Yorkers can hardly believe: to protect Brigadoon from being changed by the outside world, 200 years ago the local minister prayed to God to have Brigadoon disappear, only to reappear for one day every 100 years. All citizens of Brigadoon are forbidden to leave the town or it will disappear forever.
Enchanted by the people and place of Brigadoon, Tommy announces his intention to stay. Jeff thinks the idea absurd and argues with Tommy until he has convinced him that Brigadoon is only a dream. They leave, but some four months later, Tommy cannot get Brigadoon out of his mind; and he and Jeff return to the spot where they found Brigadoon and, as they expected, see nothing there. Tommy laments, “Why do people have to lose things to find out what they really mean?”
While our trip to Nova Scotia was not exactly like that of Tommy and Jeff, there were elements of striking similarity; and one of the major projects of District N-2–Camp Brigadoon–caught our attention and enchanted us with the thought of what a difference Lions make in the lives of those in need. We met wonderful people who charmed our hearts, we found the Lions to be of like mind and highly committed to serving those in need, and we left feeling that we would have to return–not one hundred years later–but sooner to this beautiful province on the eastern coast of North America.
Let’s start with the people. District Governor Frank Hartman demonstrated boundless energy and positive attitude as he chaired the meetings and led the festivities. DG Frank and his wife visited every club in the district (69) and we told every one how special the convention was going to be. He put his mind to making every event fun and productive for those in attendance. He made Lions roar, laugh, and feel good about all of the wonderful things happening in District N-2.
It was fun to join with DG Frank because he was one of the first to contact Kathy and me about visiting his district. He was relentless and we were happy to be able to travel to Nova Scotia. It was our first time in the Maritimes and after our visit, we know we will go back some day. We are lucky because so many people offered to let us stay with them when we return.
There were many other Lions who stand out in our minds. Rev. Lion Carl Price led the memorial service and spoke from the heart about his desire to continue serving to the end of his life. He said he wanted to keep going “up, up, up” instead of reducing his involvement and dropping off. That kind of philosophy resonates with me because I, too, want to serve until I am used up. The memorial service was a beautiful candlelight event that I thought was especially moving.
Another Lion with a great heart is District Governor Elect Claire Brunelle. She has so many stories about such interesting and heart-felt events in her life. Imagine this: After raising her children and taking care of her daughter until her death at age 18, Lion Claire decided to become a cross-country truck driver. She is working on a book that I am certain to buy as soon as it hits the bookstores about her years on the road and the people she met along the way. DG Claire is a rising leader in Lionism and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her running for ID sometime in the future.
It’s impossible to name everyone, but we really did meet some terrific Lions who treated us royally. They made us feel so special and we left feeling so appreciated and fortunate to be able to represent LCI at conventions across the continent.
In addition to the people, we enjoyed the programs and activities. On Friday night, we arrived to find the beach party in full swing.
The support of District N-2 for youth was obvious, as we observed the district speaking contest with nine contestants presenting their remarks before a packed room of Lions and guests. The winning speaker spoke on the topic of moods and their effect on individuals and those around them. We were impressed with all of the speakers and my coaching juices started flowing as I offered some suggestions to the contest coordinator to enhance the performance of the winner for the upcoming multiple district competition in May. The contest was under the direction of 2nd VDG Claire Brunelle; just one of the many ways she serves her district.
Another example of support for youth came in the form of financial contributions to Camp Brigadoon, a facility for children affected by chronic or multiple medical conditions. The Lions of N-2 built a $250,000 lodge at the camp and through the diligence and leadership of PDG Mark XX, less than $15,000 remains to pay off the debt. At the noon luncheon, the Lions presented the camp administrator with a check for $31,113 that included funds donated by clubs in the district. PDG Mark also donated a print with Bobby Orr photos and memorabilia to be auctioned off with all proceeds going to the camp.
It was hard not to be emotional, as PDG Mark told the story of his commitment to the project. The support and respect he holds from his fellow Lions was evident throughout the weekend. He and his wife, Lion Marie picked us up at the Halifax airport and transported us the two-plus hours to Antigonish; so we had a chance to learn quite a bit about Camp Brigadoon and its programs for youth.
There were other indications of support for youth, including the anti-drug poster contest and Camp Maxwell for children with diabetes.
It became very clear to us that the clubs in District N-2 were active and supporting the Centennial Service Challenge. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the clubs were on record as having completed at least one project involving youth.
We were also so pleased to raise over $600 for the One Shot One Life Measles Initiative sponsored by Lions Clubs International Foundation from the Lions of District N-2. The support for this worthy cause to save children from death by measles is gratifying.
The town of Antigonish was beautiful, with the St. Francis Xavier University campus as a focal point. Because of the timing of the convention, the students were not as visible to us, but residents told us that the city is vibrant with the university is in session. We did have an opportunity to interact with some young people in the community who were very helpful and friendly to us.
We stayed in a bed and breakfast that had formerly been the bishop’s residence. The turret suite was stunning and we had all the comforts of home. Our hosts were Past International Director Jim and Lion Jean Shirley, who escorted us from place to place and enjoyed breakfast with us each morning. Overall, our experience couldn’t have been better.
I was so pleased to again induct new members into Lionism; in fact, there were four. Being able to represent President Joe Preston and the Board of Directors at the induction is always a highlight of the evening for me.
A pleasant surprise occurred at the banquet when Kathy and I were inducted as members of the “Official Order of the Sou’Wester.” We received our Sou’Wester gear, had salt water poured over our heads, drank one full ounce of a reasonable facsimile of black rum. Everyone had a lot of fun!Kathy wrote the following about our trip to Antigonish:
Since this was my first visit to Nova Scotia, it was as if a blank slate was being filled in with detail after detail. This Canadian province is maritime but its climate is usually continental. This town is heavily Scottish. The economy is heavily influenced by the oil industry. Tourism in spring through fall is the most important economic activity, but so dependent on weather. A nearby ferry to scenic Cape Breton carries autos, people, and consumer goods on a daily basis. Nova Scotia claims many historical features including the cemetery for hundreds of victims of the Titanic. It was the first colony granted its own flag and tartan.
For a location where the Province is struggling financially, we were so impressed by the generosity of the people. One major project that reflects this characteristic is Brigadoon, a camp for children with any of these serious illnesses: heart disease, cancer, celiac disease, epilepsy, asthma, IBS. Brigadoon presents nine sessions of summer camp to children who will learn more about their disease and how to become more independent while meeting other children who suffer from diseases like their own. The camp divides them into groups of 24 and 4 counselors all assigned to one lodge. The camp offers a variety of recreational and social activities. The Lions sponsored the construction of one lodge of the facility at a cost of $250,000, that will be host to about 600 children this summer. 250 of them will be funded by the Lions. It was thrilling to witness a “parade of checks” from several Lions clubs that nearly succeeded in paying off that quarter of a million-dollar commitment. An administrative official from Brigadoon emphasized how transformational this camp experience has been for the ailing children.
The other program that made a powerful impression on me was about an organization called “Broken Earth” founded by Dr. Andrew Furey. The organization affiliates with an American hospital in coordinating medical services in Haiti. Four times yearly, Nova Scotia sends a medical team to Haiti. Each of these “mission trips” lasts one week and other Provincial “Broken Earth” teams do the same. In all, their volunteer medical teams spend almost 20 weeks in Haiti. Specializing in orthopedics, doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists loaded with surgical equipment and supplies volunteer their services over their vacation time and fly to Port-au-Prince. The photos demonstrate little progress has been made since the devastating earthquake of 2011. While the rubble on the streets has been cleared, many buildings have seen little interior repair. Since many teachers and health workers died in the quake, the standard of living remains quite low in education, health care, and personal income. The Lions of Canada have supported Broken Earth with financial contributions. Nurse Kim pointed out that security issues at the hospital Bernard Mevs require a gated entrance with armed guards on duty. The typical waiting room defies logic. It is an outdoor paved lot with a few shade trees. Patients wait outside until a designated Admissions representative brings them in for examination. While not a trauma center, their hospital will treat occasional gunshot victims. Photos demonstrated a few of these patients who certainly would have died without the medical care provided by the Broken Earth team. Lions in Nova Scotia continue to support this cause. Haitian women and girls make beaded bracelets and sell them to support the hospital. Lions in Nova Scotia buy them for $10 and turn around and sell them for at least $12 and all profits go back to Haiti. In addition to their hospital work, the medical team also provides support to a local orphanage known as Tytoo Gardens. Along with their medicine and supplies, they pack hockey bags with toys and treats for the children whose single parents abandon them so that they (the parents) can go to work. How diverse are these special charities.
Finally, we met a man named Dave Galloway who started a program called “Opening Eyes for Baby Georgia.” He had a friend whose daughter was born blind, deaf, and suffered from a rare congenital disorder (GTIA). “Baby Georgia” inspired this man, so he challenged himself to know what life must be like for his friend’s young daughter. He wrapped dark goggles over his eyes and walked for 5 days along a highway from the town of Springhill to Truro in Nova Scotia. At the conclusion, he planned to walk into a Lions convention and share his perceptions about walking sightless for such a distance. Little did he know that his fellow Lions passed the hat that day and collected over $17,000 for Baby Georgia’ s Foundation.
I am certain that I could have researched these charities online, but by talking to the actual people involved in Brigadoon, Broken Earth, and Baby Georgia’s Foundation, I gained much insight and emotional connections with wonderful volunteers who simply want to make this a better world.
The lyrics to the song, “Brigadoon,” includes the phrase “there my heart forever lies.” As we think back to our visit, Kathy and I can truly say that we will always have a special spot in our hearts for the people we met in Nova Scotia. We truly felt a special kind of friendship and witnessed a special kind of Lionism that we will never forget.
ID Robert Littlefield