Armstrong Leo Clubs accept toy drive challenge |

Armstrong Leo Clubs accept toy drive challenge

The Ford City Lions Club is looking to its youth organization to make its toy drive a roaring success this year.

The group has challenged its Leo Club members at three area high schools to compete to see which can collect the most donations for its annual Joe Alese Christmas Toy Drive by Dec. 9.

Students at Kittanning, Ford City and West Shamokin high schools have accepted the challenge, according to Ford City Lions member Brad Baillie.

The fact that Kittanning and Ford City schools will merge next year was on Baillie’s mind when he came up with the idea for the challenge.

“It has been my dream to have a competition like this. I wanted to challenge the Leo Clubs,” he said. “And since this is the last year for the two high schools, I had to do it.”

The Lions will host a pizza party for the winners of the challenge. All donations collected will go to the Kittanning Salvation Army.

Carla Alese, whose father, Joe, started the toy drive in the 1990s, hopes the challenge is one that will bring Ford City and Kittanning students closer together.

“It’s time to start integrating things,” she said. “Hopefully, next year, they’ll all be one big Leo Club, and they can have a slam dunk toy drive for us.”

She’s hoping for a good response this year, too. The Leo Clubs are taking donations from fellow students and from the community.

“It’s a great thing. The Lions want to get young people involved to do something for the community,” she said.

Alese took over the toy drive that carries her dad’s name several years ago, after her parents died.

“He believed every child in Armstrong County should have a toy at Christmas,” Alese said.

She remembers “mounds and mounds” of toy donations in the garage of her parents’ Kittanning Township home.

“I’m very happy to do it, and I want to continue,” she said. “It’s sad that my parents aren’t here, but this is a good memory. It’s giving back to the community through something my dad started.”

She credits Baillie for keeping the drive going in her father’s memory.

“He is actually the one keeping this tradition up,” she said. “He is the one every year who gets the ball rolling on the Lions’ end.”

Baillie, in turn, is inspired by the generosity of Joe Alese, who was a school psychologist and polka band leader.

“Joe picked this up and ran with it,” he said. “Since his passing, I’m just trying to do the same.”

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1315 or [email protected].

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