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Lions' Den at Ronald McDonald House officially opened. Magnificent effort recognised.

To mark the official opening of Ronald McDonald House in Wellington, the Dominion Post has run a special supplement recognising those who have brought the dream into reality.

The mighty Lions’ Den

It’s not unusual, when you’re fundraising, to exceed your initial expectations, especially when it’s for a good cause. But to do what Silverstream Lions Club president Rex Bullard has done – turning $8500 into a hundred times that – of $860,000 – is very rare indeed.

Ronald McDonald House has always been a favourite recipient of the Lions’ fundraising, Mr Bullard says. So when the Silverstream club ran a cycle race – the Tour de Whiteman’s Valley – and raised $8500, they knew straight away where it should go.

“We went to Lesley Slieker (CEO of Ronald McDonald House in Wellington0 and presented the cheque,” Mr Bullard explains. “She was delighted and mentioned they were just starting a capital campaign for the new House, and asked if we’d like to be involved.”

A room in the new House with the Silverstream Lions’ name on the door would cost $30,000 so Rex and his team – Roy Peterson and David Irving – went back to the club. “They said it was a good idea and three years’ worth of Tour de Whiteman’s would cover it. So we let Lesley know it was a deal.” By that time, some other Lions clubs had expressed interest in the new House. Mr Bullard saw the potential of a united effort.

“Instead of just having a room called the Silverstream Lions’ Den, we could have a group of rooms called the Lions’ Den. We asked how much for three rooms and a laundry and Lesley said $140,000. So the three of us went back to the club and told them what we had just committed them to.”

The members were more than happy with that, and some hasty arithmetic showed the target of $140,000 would be easily achieved. But it seems easy achievement is not the Lions’ way.

“We went back to Lesley and asked for a target to stretch us. How much would an entire floor called the Lions’ Den cost?”

Back at the clubrooms they drew straws to see who’d tell the members they’d now committed to raising half a million dollars. The support was overwhelming so the three marketers hit the road.

“We decided to visit every single club that wanted to hear the story,” says Mr Bullard. “Over the past five years we’ve travelled about 22,000km and the three of us have put in a total of 1200 hours. We’ve been to Lions conventions in different districts, clubs – wherever anyone’s wanted to listen, we’ve gone.”

Clubs were invited to choose any project they liked, with the money going directly to Ronald McDonald House. “We took that approach rather than asking for a fixed sum. Some clubs can just write out a cheque while other clubs really struggle because of their size and their community. It worked out really well.”

Some smaller Lions clubs did especially well. The Norsewood club, for instance, has 20 members out of a total population of 250. They persuaded local farmers to donate bales of hay which were then on-sold. Mr Bullard says they did a great job. “They raised over $5000 towards the House. That’s $20 for every man, woman and child living in Norsewood.”

In Nelson the local Lionesses – another one of the smaller clubs – were asked to advise on whether funding an expressing room for nursing mothers would be a suitable project for all Lioness groups. Instead the Nelson club opted to fund it themselves. “They got stuck in and raised the $20,000 in two years. It’s completely revitalised the club and given them a new energy and direction.”

At the other end of the scale, the national Lion’s Lloyd Morgan Trust has paid for an apartment in the House, as has the Lions Clubs International Foundation, at a cost of $60,000 each.

At the end of the day, the combined Lions’ effort has contributed in excess of the cost of the second floor of Ronald McDonald House, now known as the Lions’ Den. But Rex still thinks there’s more to come.

“The support has been fantastic. There are still clubs that want to be included, so fundraising will continue. We want to get to the million dollar mark. We’ll get there!”


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