Leos host New Year's carnival for Rancho patients

DOWNEY - Paige Looney sang and danced at the very edge of the stage as a crowd of several hundred Rancho patients and community members cheered wildly for the charismatic young performer during Rancho's 18th Annual New Year's Carnival last Thursday at the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center's Jacquelin Perry Institute Back Lot. "She was so enthusiastic, I thought she was going to dance right off the stage," said Rancho's Director of Volunteer Services Debbie Tomlinson. "Paige is an exceptional performer, because she puts her whole heart into it...and the audience always responds to her incredible effort and the sheer joy she extends to everyone."

"It is so much fun to sing and dance, and especially for the Rancho patients," Paige said. She was one of nearly a dozen members of Rancho's Performing Arts of Rancho Program who sang at the Carnival. The event was put on by more than 80 high school students who are members of Leos clubs at seven area high schools. The Leos are the student auxiliary of Lion's Clubs International.

"This is truly a 'Carnival of Hope' for our patients, because whether they are inpatients or outpatients at the hospital, they forget about their stroke, spinal cord injury or brain injury for a couple of hours and focus on having a good time," said Debbie.

"I am always impressed by the way the Leos give up part of their holiday vacation to make a special memory for Rancho's patients and staff," said Steve Stolar, a member of the City of Industry Lions Club, who chairs the event for the Lions. He said the Leos came from Firebaugh High in Lynwood, El Rancho High in Pico Rivera, Blair High in Pasadena, and Cerritos, El Monte, Bellflower and Bell Gardens High Schools.

"When you see the effort the Leos put into working with each patient to make sure they have a great time, it makes all the planning and preparation for this day well worth the effort," he said. The Leos treated patients to complimentary hot dogs, nachos, cotton candy, popcorn, soft drinks and desserts. The Leos also manned the marbling booth under the direction of Rancho graduate artist Kenneth Younger, where patients created their own unique artworks.

"The games and entertainment are a great way to put some fun into our patients' New Year celebrations," Debbie said. "Nobody wants to be in the hospital over the holidays, but when you see the faces of the patients and their families light up, you realize the positive impact we are having in the lives of individuals who are recovering from disabling illnesses or injuries.

"This has been a very meaningful way holiday season at Rancho," she said. "We have had more than 60 of our patient families in need adopted for the holidays, we have had many groups of carolers sing for our patients (including the renowned LA Opera carolers), and now we have made our patients happy again with this very successful carnival.

"We thank each and every Leo who made this such a meaningful experience for our patients and staff, and we want to wish all our friends throughout the community a very Happy New Year!"

********** Published: January 3, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 38