Ecker Hill students show they have the hearts of lions | ParkRecord.com

Ecker Hill students show they have the hearts of lions

Seventh-grade students at Ecker Hill Middle School are the first members of the new Park City chapter of the Lions Heart youth service organization. They say they are eager to serve others.

Karla Olson sat back as the ideas were zipping all over the room. They were things she never would have thought of, but as a parent and the founder of the Park City chapter of the Lion's Heart youth service organization, she was proud.

It was the new group's inaugural meeting, and the students were enthusiastic. Their ideas were many: They wanted to paint and play board games with residents of retirement homes, work at soup kitchens in Salt Lake City, volunteer at local animal shelters and host toy drives for patients at Primary Children's Hospital.

For Olson, it was validation that Lion's Heart will flourish in Park City. The organization, founded in 2004, provides the structure for teens to get involved in community service. Locally, it is open to seventh-grade boys and girls, and Olson anticipates that membership will rise quickly.

"I just think this area is so ripe for something like this," she said. "For me, it was so gratifying to see the support because I really wanted to get behind something that could grow. I just think, with the amount of excitement that we have received already, it shows that there's been a need for a while."

Olson said the Park City chapter will serve the community in a number of ways, both large and small. She added that seventh grade is a perfect time for children to learn the importance of doing things for other people.

"We can foster that," she said. "It's really about doing small things. Everyone always thinks volunteering is like this huge undertaking. But to have them do little things around the community, compounding over time where they can really see the difference they make, is great."

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Blake Matamoros is one student who has been eager to participate. He said he joined because he wants to do good deeds for other people.

"There are so many people who need help," he said. "It's the right thing to do."

Alli Macuga, another student, said she "loves" serving others.

"After you do it, you just feel like you've really done something," she said. "You get that feeling inside of you and you know you've done something really good."

For Bodi Marzka, the best part is watching the reactions of people he is helping. That's one of the top reasons he joined Lion's Heart.

"When you see someone be so happy, you get happy, too," he said.

Olson was pleased to hear the students speak so enthusiastically about volunteering because the success of the Lion's Heart chapter depends on them. They elect their own officers, decide who they want to serve and run their own meetings. The students' eager attitudes portend good things for the future, she said.

"It's really driven by the teens — that's one thing that really differentiates us from other charities," she said. "It's not the parents telling them what they need to do. So they really learn great leadership skills."

For more information about Lion's Heart, visit lionsheartservice.org. To join the Park City chapter, contact Olson at kolson21@live.com.

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