The first LEO club
The LEO movement was launched in 1957, by a coach Jim Graver who got the ball rolling – a baseball. Graver was a baseball coach at Abington High School in Pennsylvania, USA, and an active member of the Glenside Lions Club. Together with Lions member William Ernst, Graver developed the idea of starting a club for high school students. In the 7 October 1976 issue of the Evening Bulletin, Ernst is quoted in an article as saying:
« After all, the Kiwanians had their Key Clubs, and the Rotary Club had the Wheel Clubs [N.B. now Rotaract Clubs]. We needed a solid core, a group of young people to start with. So we told Jim's son to come to the first meeting with his whole baseball team. »
The group of 26 baseball players was joined by another nine students, made up of both primary and high school students, forming the club. On December 5, 1957, the Glenside Lions presented a charter to the Abington High School LEO Club with their 35 members.
The Abington LEOs remained the only club of its kind for 7 years. It wasn't until 1963 that a second LEO Club was formed, this time at Tamaqua Area High School in Pennsylvania. A short time later, a Lion from Philadelphia founded a LEO club in New York. By 1964, there were 27 LEO clubs in Pennsylvania and one in New York. The number of LEO clubs grew steadily, and in October 1967, the Lions Clubs International Board of Directors incorporated the LEO programme into the association's official programme. The LEO programme was to be open to youth of both sexes with the following objective:
« [...] to provide opportunities for the youth of the world to develop and contribute, alone or together, as responsible members of the local, national and international community. »
In 1968, other newly formed LEO clubs requested charter certificates from International Headquarters. On 17 October 1969, the charter application forms of the Abington High School LEO Club also arrived at the headquarters, and on that day, the world's first LEO club became an official part of the international LEO programme.
Today, the LEO programme is stronger than ever, and community service projects remain the cornerstone of the programme. The acronym LEO - Leadership, Experience, Opportunity - originates from this first LEO club in the world at Abington High School.