Lions Helping Lions: West Linn aids lions in Africa

West Linn Lions are thriving—in the classroom, in activities and athletics-as well as within the community. The story for lions in African countries such as Kenya, is dramatically different.

Lions Helping Lions, a fundraiser set up by West Linn students and staff, ran through March and ended just before Spring Break. The program was meant to create awareness about the endangered species.

During the last 50 years, the population of lions in Africa has dropped from around 450,000 to 20,000 due to hunting and illegal poaching of the cats by natives, outsiders and invasion by human civilization.

Lions Helping Lions is a part of a larger organization called National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative, designed to halt the extinction of the world’s wild cat population. By collecting donations, the Big Cat Initiative purchases reserves and educates about the conditions of the big cats.

The Lions Helping Lions fundraiser encouraged West Linn students and staff to donate to one of several jugs set in the library. In addition, a movie called “The Last Lion” was shown the week of March 12. The film focused mainly on the loss of wild cat habitat. There was also a community showing of the film on March 21, and students handed out fliers to further assist in raising awareness.

According to Associated Student Body adviser Butch Self, there was no particular fundraising goal. The first weeks of the fundraiser were a bit rough, he said, due to basketball playoffs, but the last two weeks before Spring Break were the big push.

Self estimates around $1,000 was raised, but the final count has not been made. Over $700 was raised from an auction of a lion painting held on March 21, and a couple hundred more is expected to come from the donations made by students.

Not only was Lions Helping Lions an effort of high school students, but it also involved a second grade class from Willamette Elementary that worked with high school students on storybooks and paintings. High school students cooperated with the class to create the painting auctioned in late March.

“I think the effort itself is important,” Butch Self, leadership teacher, said. “If everybody could give a dollar, that would be a great start.”

Although there was no specific goal, Self hoped to make an impact financially and raise awareness about the ecological issue. He said that consciousness of community members is the most important outcome for Lions Helping Lions.

“I kind of hoped we would raise more as a school,” Self said. “It’s not gonna be an easy band-aid fix, but we gotta start somewhere.”

Lions Helping Lions may be continued each year, and eventually West Linn students may decide to spread the fundraiser to other schools.

“Once we kind of get this rolling, maybe we can expand,” Self said.

For more information on fundraising and endangerment of big felines, visit the website of National Geographic (http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/big-cats/).

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