Take Aktion: Lawrence club for people with disabilities provides service to others


People with cognitive disabilities often are the recipients of services, but a club in Lawrence gives them an opportunity to help others and contribute meaningfully to the community.

Aktion Club is a Kiwanis-sponsored organization led by its members, all people in the community who have a cognitive disability. The organization had to slow down starting in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the past six months has started to get back on track.

Kiwanis member Dave Hume helped kickstart the Lawrence Aktion Club, which started about four years ago. Hume, a financial advisor, started a Geist-based Aktion Club previously when he worked in that area and was a member of the Kiwanis Club there. But he switched membership to the Lawrence Kiwanis Club when he moved his offices to Lawrence.

“They asked me about what I did in the (Geist) club, and I said, ‘Well, most recently, I started an Aktion Club.’ And they go, ‘Oh, my god, we have been around here for 50 years, we’ve never had an Aktion Club. We’ve always wanted an Aktion Club. Please join us and be our club facilitator for Aktion Club of Lawrence.’ And I said, ‘Sure, great.’”

That was spring of 2019. To get the word out, Hume said they put notices on social media. They asked people to RSVP, but only a handful did, and so he was concerned that not many would attend. He said he was needlessly worried.

“We had probably about 100 people show up,” he said. “That was a combination of individuals with disabilities, their parents, their caregivers, their coaches. I told them what we wanted to accomplish, and I got just tremendous support from the community.”

Hume said about 30 people signed up that night to join the new Aktion Club. After that, they had their first meeting, selected officers and started working on service projects in their community.

One project involved stuffing pre-sewn neck pillows for patients at Riley Hospital for Children, he said. They had a large bag of stuffing and a bunch of empty neck pillows.

“They got into that to the point they didn’t want to have the meeting,” he said. “We tried to do the meeting while they were still stuffing pillows. And that was great. We ended up doing, I think, three leaf bags, which was I would say (is) 150 pillows (that) we made for Riley.”

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Members of the Lawrence Aktion Club fill Easter eggs for the community’s annual Easter egg hunt. (Photo courtesy of Dave Hume)

They also filled Easter eggs for the community Easter egg hunt, and organized fundraisers such as a bowling tournament to benefit other organizations, such as Maddie Smiles.

Hume said the group has social get-togethers, as well. They’ve had picnics, Christmas and Halloween parties, and had a float in the Lawrence Fourth of July Parade.

“They love that because they get in the back of the float, and they pull slowly through the Lawrence area and they throw candy out,” he said.

Hume said the club was quite active until COVID-19 restrictions meant members couldn’t meet in person anymore. They tried Zoom, which was OK until one of their meetings was hacked by someone who used insulting and hurtful language toward the members. Hume said many of the members understandably didn’t want to meet by Zoom after that. So, the club was dormant for a while.

Now that they can meet in person again, they’re getting back on track.

“It’s getting better,” he said, “We’re probably not quite up to full speed, but I think we will be.”

Hume said they plan to work with Village of Merici to alternate a regular bingo night with service projects.

Village of Marici is a residential apartment building for people with cognitive disabilities. It provides an opportunity for its residents to live as independently as they can, but also offers services to residents as needed.

Hume said many Aktion Club members live at Village of Merici.

Jason Remie is the president of Aktion Club. He said he got involved through friends who had joined. At first, he was a regular member, and then was asked to become president. He said he enjoys the responsibility.

“It’s a good group,” he said. “We help out certain people and we do group events and stuff like that. It’s a good experience.”

Remie, 44, said he feels a sense of pride when he sees that they’ve done something helpful. Some of the events he’s enjoyed include filling Easter eggs and raising money for other organizations. He also appreciates the company of other Aktion Club members.

“The people who are in Aktion Club are good, reliable people,” he said. “It’s more of a family environment to me. It’s a good time and everybody is so proud to be there as well. It’s just a nice group of people.”

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Lawrence Aktion Club members participate in the community’s annual Fourth of July Parade.

What is Kiwanis?

Kiwanis International was founded in Detroit in 1915 by a group of businessmen to network professionally. Four years later, it changed its mission to one of service to children.

Kiwanis quickly became an international organization with the founding of a chapter in Ontario, Canada, in 1916. It now has chapters worldwide.

The name is derived from an Indigenous American phrase that means “we trade,” according to the Kiwanis International website. The group’s motto was “We Build” until 2005, when the organization changed the motto to “Serving the children of the world.”

According to its website, the clubs raise about $133 million annually to help children access resources to improve health, education and opportunities.

Kiwanis was a male-only organization until 1987. It is not religiously affiliated, and in 2008 its members voted on a resolution to celebrate and foster inclusiveness.