Kiwanis George F. Hixon Fellowship

In June 2008, the Kiwanis Club of Saint Helens presented me with "the George F. Hixon fellowship award." I am now "officially" a George F. Hixon Fellow. In the world of Kiwanis, this award is a "big deal." The George F. Hixson Fellowship was created by the Kiwanis International Foundation in 1983 to establish an endowment fund to primarily help children.  The award was named after George F. Hixon, the first president of Kiwanis International. The Fellowship is one of Kiwanis "highest honors," and I thought it was really neat to be a recipient. Hixon Fellowships are awarded to clubs that have contributed a $1000 to the Kiwanis International Foundation to honor a deserving individual. 

I was the fifth member of our club ever to receive this honor. 
Award winners are presented with two beautiful Medallions. The Medallions are numbered, and are imprinted with the likeness of George F. Hixon. The likeness is surrounded with points of blue and white. They are attached and hung from a blue and white ribbon. One of the medallions is incased in a walnut and velvet shadow box for display and the other is designed to be worn at high visibility functions.

I was also given a gold and blue lapel pin/tie tack. The award was presented to me by Steve Reed, our local Circuit Court Judge. The award caught me completely by surprise, I was speechless. One Kiwanis member commented that it was probably worth a thousand dollars to shut me up.

The money that clubs (and individuals) send to Kiwanis International Foundation's endowment fund is used to provide grants to support Kiwanis-sponsored youth, disaster relief and the needs of children around the world. Funds may also be designated to support Kiwanis International's Worldwide Service Project. Everything goes to the designated projects, nothing is taken out for overhead. The Kiwanis International foundation was started in 1940 in Detroit as part of Kiwanis International's 25th Anniversary celebration. A Canadian, Walter Zeller, provided 25 silver dollars to decorate a large anniversary cake. The cake was auctioned off and they raised $626 as a "nest egg" to help start the foundation. Since 1940, the Kiwanis International Foundation has grown to a multimillion-dollar operation providing grants to thousands of organizations worldwide to improve the lives of children.

The Foundation's most ambitious project has been the Kiwanis Iodine deficiency disorder (IDD) project.  This was the Foundation's first worldwide service project. Prior to this, almost all Kiwanis projects had been local in nature. This was the first time that Kiwanis had ever untaken a project that would reach out to the entire world. When the project began, it was estimated that 28 million babies could be born each year with mental impairment due to insufficient iodine in their mother's diets. In 1994 the foundation pledged to raise $75 million to combat IDD. At that time it was estimated that only 30% of the world used iodized salt. It was also estimated that the problem could be solved at a cost of less than five cents a child to build iodized salt plants in areas of the world that were iodine deficient.

Kiwanis partnered with the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the US Center for Disease Control. Kiwanis exceeded its $75 million goal; well over $100 million was raised and invested in developing countries around the world. 
Because of the effort of the Kiwanis Foundation and their partners, world wide iodine deficiency has been virtually eliminated. 

Kiwanis is a service organization. They are not a lodge or a secret society; they really have no secrets and love to have visitors come to their meetings. They are open to all, and are not limited to business people, in many ways they are like Rotary, or the Lions which are also excellent community service organizations. Kiwanians, like the members of many other service clubs, really want to make our world a better place in which to live. Their motto is "Serving the Children of the World." Kiwanians know that they can do more as a group than they can as individuals. Their mission statement is: Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time. Kiwanians really believe that they can do this, and that they can do their part to make the world a better place for us all.

I was really pleased and very proud to receive a Hixon award. I joked to others that the medallion bothered my wife. I told them that she said that it poked her during the night. 

I really like the award; it is beautiful, it was a generous action and a kind thought on the part of fellow Kiwanians. A chilling thought came to me, everyone in our club that has received a Hixon Fellowship died within a year of being given the award. I do hope that this award isn't some kind of fatal omen.

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