Giving Back: LaPlace Lions Club parade creates $12,500 for others

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, May 3, 2017

LAPLACE — While thousands of St. John the Baptist Parish residents and visitors enjoy the annual Krewe du Monde Mardi Gras parade each year, most of them have no idea they are partying for a good cause.

The annual parade and accompanying ball are sponsored by the LaPlace Lions Club, and each year the group has raised enough funds to donate to several different outlets.

This year the Lions raised more than $12,500, which has been divided among the Louisiana Lions Eye Foundation, the Louisiana Lions Crippled Children’s Camp in Leesville and used to serve breakfast and pass out gift cards to the residents of Place du Burg assisted living center in LaPlace.

“It is a parade for a cause,” said parade organizer Lance Bonadonna. “The Lions Club raises money to donate to charitable entities.”

Lions Club International, the 100-year-old service organization with more than a million members, is best known for its assistance to the blind and visually impaired. The group collects millions of used eyeglasses each year, which are donated to those in need.

The LaPlace Lions have a collection box outside CVS Pharmacy on Airline Highway.

“It’s amazing how many old pairs of glasses we get,” said Dr. Christy Montegut, a past president who is now serving as Lion Tamer.

The club also has contributed to the Greater New Orleans Therapeutic Riding Center, St. John Ministry of Care, helps with the annual Christmas party at Twin Oaks Nursing Home and donates Easter and Thanksgiving baskets to various organizations.

To help fund all those projects, the Lions hold the annual carnival ball in January and the parade the weekend before Mardi Gras.

“We had over 100 units this year,” Bonadonna said.

“We had nearly 700 riders involved in the parade, in addition to the 12 or so dance teams, the bands, the 25 or so cars with queens and maids, fire trucks and so on.”

The club relies on the entry fees from all those participants and good weather.

“We’ve never had a parade rained out, thank goodness,” Montegut said. “There’s always the prospect that we could lose a lot of money.”

According to Montegut, the parade was started in 1966 by the Larayo Organization but quickly grew too big for them to handle.

There have been lulls and lapses with no parades, but the Lions took it over in 2007.

Knowing there could be rainouts, the organizers began putting money aside in a “rainy day fund.”

“Fortunately, we’ve never had a rainy day,” Montegut said.

As that account built up over the years, the Lions began looking for ways to give it back to the community.

Montegut is fond of the children’s camp, which serves youngsters with special needs, diabetes and pulmonary disorders run at no cost to attendees.

“It’s a wonderful place,” Montegut said. “They do great things there.”

Montegut encourages local residents to join the LaPlace Lions Club, which meets the first Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at Petra’s Restaurant, 1036 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace.

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