What do Civitans do?
Many people ask this question when they first hear about Civitan International, and the answer can be different wherever you are. Civitan has a focus on helping people with developmental disabilities, and funding research into illnesses of the human brain at the Civitan International Research Center, but local clubs do so much more.
Each Civitan club is different, but they all have one thing in common: Civitans help people, and have fun doing it. Below are just a few of the amazing club projects Civitans organize, in communities around the world.
Each February, the Naples Civitan Club of Naples, Florida holds their Valentine’s Day Dinner-Dance for people with developmental disabilities. The club arranges for dinner, live music, entertainment, and dancing. The Dinner-Dance has become a local institution, with the mayor of Naples crowning each year’s king and queen.
In Ontario, the Kingston and District Civitan Club funds and volunteers for the Kingston Mission Truck, a mobile warming station for homeless residents. In the cold Ontario winters, this warming station provides food, shelter and safety in the twilight hours before the local homeless shelter opens for the night. Kingston Civitans hand out food, personal care items, and other necessities to people who need them the most.
When a series of devastating tornadoes swept across the southeastern United States in April 2011, the North Bay Civitan Club of D’Iberville, Mississippi stepped into action. They held a collection drive for water, nonperishable food items, and more for tornado victims in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Within days, a shipment of nearly 2,300 items was sent to the relief center in Tuscaloosa to help those who had lost everything in the storm.
Equine-assisted therapy is an innovative new treatment for autism, severe anxiety, and other psychological issues. Therapists guide patients through gentle horseback riding, which is shown to improve symptoms ranging from anxiety to blood pressure to self-esteem. In Mexico, the Cancún Civitan Club now holds an equine therapy clinic, and trains local physicians to give this life-changing therapy to their own patients.
Wheelchair ramps are a necessity for many people with disabilities, but cost thousands of dollars to install. Many cannot afford to have them built at their homes, and are unable to enter or leave without help. One of Civitan’s most widespread club projects is the construction of wheelchair ramps, built on-site for those in need.
In Birmingham, Alabama, the Cahaba River is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, and a source of drinking water for much of central Alabama. That’s why each spring, clubs in central Alabama host the Cahaba River Clean-Up. In canoes and on foot, volunteers move along the waterway, pulling out tons of debris and refuse. Civitans have held this event since 1990, and are proud to help safeguard this precious natural resource.
Each year, the Civitan club in Lillesand, Norway holds the Ketil Moe “Run for Life.” This event, named after a runner who lived with cystic fibrosis, is designed for people of all abilities, and helps promote understanding toward people with physical disabilities. There is no time limit, and people of all ability levels are encouraged to take part.
Hundreds of communities across the United States and Canada have a Civitan Park that was built, donated, or maintained by local Civitan clubs. The Idaho Falls Civitan club recently spent a month tearing down old, dilapidated playground equipment at their local Civitan Park, and constructed a new, durable structure for children in their community.
The El Monte-Arcadia club of Altadena, California enjoys supporting volunteers of the furry kind. Each year, the club organizes their annual Canine Companion Dinner, a fundraiser to help purchase an assistance dog for people with disabilities. Training these dogs can cost as much as $10,000, but recipients are never charged a penny for their canine companion.
Since 1967, the Silver Valley Civitan club in North Carolina has spread holiday cheer with their annual Project Santa Claus. Members work with the local school system to identify families in need, and spend months collecting food, toys, and financial donations. On Christmas Eve, a hand-picked crew of “Santas” delivers these gifts to selected families. To these Civitans, there is no greater joy than the smiles on children’s faces when they spot Santa at the front door.
Civitans meet needs whenever they arise, and this can happen in the blink of an eye. With that in mind, Civitans in Edgewood and Albuquerque, New Mexico recently teamed up to go through Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) with the Albuquerque Emergency Response Team. These Civitans are now trained to help in a disaster situation, when every second counts.
In 2007, city officials in Brockville, Ontario, approached the local Civitan club about the need for a skate park. Local youth had nowhere to skate except on sidewalks and city streets, but the city had no funds for such a project. Brockville Civitans spent the next two years raising more than $35,000 to build Civitan Skate Park. Since opening in 2009, this park has been a much-loved local attraction for skaters and skateboarders of all ages.
Civitans in Seoul, South Korea organize one of the city’s most well-publicized annual events, the Handicapped Children’s Festival. The event is attended by hundreds of children with disabilities. Attendees are entertained by local celebrities, comedians, and awards presentations to outstanding special education teachers.
Civitans are often the first to honor veterans and members of the armed forces. On holidays such as Veterans’ Day, members of the Frederick Challenger Civitan Club in Maryland clean the grave markers of American soldiers, marking each one with a American flag. Last year, visitors to the cemetery saw stars and stripes over the graves of more than 600 American soldiers in Frederick – a fitting tribute, to show that those who served their country proudly will never be forgotten.
Each year, the Little Rock Civitan Club in Arkansas gives the Noel Don McGuire award to an outstanding police academy graduate. Noel Don McGuire was a rising leader in the Little Rock Police Department when he was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1980. Since then, the Little Rock Civitan Club has honored his memory, and the memory of all police officers who have given their lives to keep us safe.
Civitans everywhere enjoy making their communities better places to live. In Connecticut, the Windsor Civitan club has adopted the Windsor City Park. Club members join together regularly to plant trees and shrubs, keep the grounds clean, and ensure that the park is a clean, enjoyable place for everyone in their community.
These are just a few of the programs, events, and projects taken on by Civitans everywhere. If you would like to find a Civitan club in your area, click here to find the one nearest you.
If you would like to find out more about Civitan International, please contact Civitan International Headquarters at 1-800-CIVITAN, or click here for our online contact form.