Periodically, the Kiwanis Club of Kirkland honors a person or persons in our community for service they have given in various capacities that affects the lives of others in a positive way by presenting them with an “Everyday Hero” award. The definition of an “Everyday Hero” by Kiwanis International is, “A person or persons recognized for rendering service beyond what is ordinary or expected and for doing so without regard for attention or receiving in return but rather because it was the right thing to do and needed to be done.” Earlier this summer, the KCK presented two of these prestigious awards to Kiwanis members that are well- deserving for the wonderful work they do above and beyond being a Kiwanis member.
In May, retired Optometrist and Kiwanis member, Larry Otten was presented with an Everyday Hero Award. Larry has been a member of the club since 2014 and has embodied what being a Kiwanian represents. Besides being an active member of the KCK, he also has given unselfishly of his time for many years to help those in need with eye care in underprivileged countries including Cambodia, the Dominican Republic and Malawi, Africa. Otten has participated in five eye care mission trips since his official retirement from Redmond Eye Clinic in 2013. Prior to the eye care missions, he volunteered on six home building trips to Ensenada, Mexico where he helped build 18 two-room homes on those trips.
On his most recent trip to Cambodia, Otten was part of the Cambodian Eye Care Team and eighteen members of that team were from the VOSH NW group (Volunteers Optometric Services to Humanity Northwest www.voshnorthwest.org ). The mission of VOSH is “to facilitate the provision of vision care worldwide to people who can neither afford nor obtain such care.” On this 2016 trip, there were 4 doctors and 14 support staff from VOSH.
Here is how this all works. Once the team arrives at their designated clinic for the day, eye care specialists set up two different clinic sites. The first step is to perform an eye exam to see what is needed. Mostly, patients these specialists see need an eyeglasses prescription. On his last trip to Cambodia, Otten took with him a suitcase filled with 45 pounds of eye glasses that had been donated for the mission. These glasses are carefully checked for the prescription and organized so that volunteers can present them to patients as needed. About 10% of the patients need cataract surgery. At the second site, these surgeries are performed by the Cambodian eye care team that joined with VOSH.
The first two days the team worked, they treated a total of nearly 575 people at a village near Sihanoukville. They then traveled all day the following day and were relocated to a hospital in the town of Kampong Chhnang.. Working to exhaustion, they saw nearly 725 more people in the next two days. This puts a whole new spin on “it’s all in a day’s work”!! The next VOSH NW trip is scheduled for November 2016 to Mexico. The plan is to include 24 humanitarians on that trip.
When asked about his experience, Larry said, “When one gives unconditionally, there is a return of thankfulness from those served that fills the heart of the giver beyond description. I can just say that when you know you have done your best to serve others, nothing feels quite like it! I believe that the only requirement to serve others is to go with an open heart. After that, be ready to serve again.” Congratulations Larry Otten for a job extremely well done.
The following month, it was the privilege of the Kiwanis Club of Kirkalnd to present another Everyday Hero Award to the North Central Seattle Kiwanis Club for their continued work in sponsoring Kiwanis Camp Casey. This is a special week long summer camp for children with physical challenges with diagnosis labels such as cerebral palsy, spine bifida, muscular dystrophy, amputees, congenital limb disorders or childhood spinal cord injuries. These children between the ages of 6-17 with these challenges have the opportunity to spend a week with other kids with challenges, being able to “just be themselves” and make friends that will last a lifetime. For them, it is a week to engage in typical summer activities – something many of these kids don’t have the opportunity to do except at his camp.
Not only is there a medical staff available around the clock, but campers are assigned counselors to assist them and there is always a lot of one on one time with each camper. Counselors work in unit teams providing assistance as needed, creating fun activities that keep campers involved and having fun. These counselors are young people ages 16 – 25 and many of them have chosen their lifetime careers based on the experiences they have had at Kiwanis Camp Casey.
The camp is provided by North Central Seattle Kiwanis Club and all staffing, nurses and counselors volunteer to help create “the best week of the year” for the campers. For over 75 years, due to the generosity of the NC Kiwanis Club, its donors, foundation grants and employee matching funds, the North Central Kiwanis Club has sponsored and fully funded the camp, so it is free of charge to these special kids! Nearly 90 children attend this camp each year.
Barbara Williams from the NC Kiwanis Club has been the director of Kiwanis Camp Casey for 9 years. She does an amazing job of overseeing all aspects of the camp organization and administration. Thanks to Williams and her crew, the camp runs like a well- oiled machine. The commitment and dedication she and the NC Kiwanis Club have to this special camp have made it a dream come true for many children in our area that would not otherwise have such a loving and memorable experience. Barb says, “We work under the auspice of the Kiwanis International Mission Statement: ‘Serving the Children of the World’ and Kiwanis Camp Casey exemplifies the very best of Kiwanis. This camp allows an incredibly fun, life changing experience and along the way our campers learn confidence, independence, improved communications and make lifelong friends. Parents are given a much needed respite and the opportunity to watch their child bloom as a result of the Kiwanis Camp Casey experience.” A huge thank you goes to this amazing group of volunteers that make up the NC Seattle Kiwanis Club.
Kiwanis Camp Casey is located on Whidbey Island and is owned by Seattle Pacific University (UPS). For more information about Kiwanis Camp Casey, volunteering or how to make a donation, visit their website at www.campcasey.org.
We at the Kiwanis Club of Kirkland are honored and proud to be connected to these amazing people and respect them beyond words for the things they do to make this world a better place to live. If you would like to know more about KCK, stop by Hector’s in Kirkland at noon on Wednesdays for one of our meetings. We will buy you lunch! You can also visit our website at www.kiwanis.kirkland.org.