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‘Chicken Selfies’ Bring in Dollars for NHS Leo Club

(The Times photo courtesy of Betsy Reason)
Myka Parra, 8, a third-grader at White River Elementary, poses for a photo with her aunt Katie Richey of Noblesville, as Noblesville High School Leo Club adviser John Smith holds a chicken during the NHS Leo Club “Chicken Selfies” fundraiser on Friday night at the Millers’ home football game against Westfield Shamrocks. Leo Club members and NHS sophomores Renee Small (back from left), Alanna Puckett and Elizabeth Cecil volunteer at the booth.

Who wouldn’t want to have a selfie photo taken with a chicken?

Yes, that’s right.

For a small donation, fans at Friday night’s Noblesville High School Millers football game against Westfield Shamrocks had the opportunity to pose for a photo with a chicken.

You know, those domesticated birds that can’t fly.

Since the pandemic, there’s been a surge of people raising chickens in their backyard.

The Noblesville High School Leo Club sponsored Friday night’s “Chicken Selfies” at the football game. For $3 a person or $5 for a group donation (sometimes they accepted less), folks could get their photos taken with one of two chickens, owned by NHS senior Alanna Riley. When asked by the Leos, she graciously agreed to let the club borrow two of her chickens, which were chauffeured by her family to and from the game in a stroller.

Riley coached the Leo Club adviser, NHS art teacher John Smith, on how to handle the chickens and off they went. Being a city boy, Mr. Smith was a little nervous, but members of the Leo Club kept the chickens under control.

All ages walked up to the “Chicken Selfies” table — which was placed near the south entrance to the new Beaver Stadium — to ask to hold a chicken and get their photo taken.

Parents brought their little kids up close to see the chickens. Groups of students wanted photos. It was just a fun night. (It was also Noblesville Mass Band Night (see Nicholas Shotwell’s photos in Wednesday’s edition of The Times) at the football game which ended with a final score of 34-33, a Westfield win.)

The Leos combined the “Chicken Selfies” with a bake sale that had more than a dozen Leo members donating baked items that included cookies, cupcakes, pretzels, brownies, cake sticks and more. Even the adviser made chocolate oatmeal cookies that the Leo members nicknamed “hootenannies.” They sold the items at a table near the “Chicken Selfies” and eventually pedaled the baked goods into the stadium bleachers.

The “Chicken Selfies” and the bake sale raised more than $700 for the club on Friday night and set a Leo Club fundraising record for the “selfie” night.

The club three years ago came up with “Goat Selfies,” which were a great success, thanks to Leo Club member Emma Humburg for lending two “funny little” Nigerian Dwarf goats, Rosie and Butters, from her family’s farm, with the NHS principal’s approval. Humberg secured tennis balls on the goats’ horns just in case they bumped into anyone. The Leos raised $250, and did it again at another home game. Then the pandemic slowed down the “selfies” until last year when club member Breckin Parker offered up two chickens.

“I think people in this one-time farm community just get a kick out of seeing those animals in a place where they typically would not seem them,” the teacher said.

The Leo Club is “the younger kid version” of the Lions Club and was formed in September 2016 with the help of Noblesville Lions Club members, who are nurturing the next generation to take over. The Leo Club offers youth the opportunity to serve, as Lions do.

Noblesville Lion David Marsh, a retired NHS teacher and old friend, recruited Smith to be the NHS Leo Club adviser. The first year, when the Leo Club formed, this journalist was at the first meeting at NHS, and the club finished with about 10 members. Noblesville Lion Steve Shaw counted 47 Leos at their last meeting.

(The Times photo courtesy of Betsy Reason)
Here’s what started all of the animal “selfie” fundraisers at Noblesville High School, where NHS Leo Club members, including Annie Jessee (left), pose with two goats, owned by member Emma Humburg, and the Club’s adviser, NHS teacher John Smith, during a Goat Selfie fundraiser in 2019 at the Noblesville Millers varsity football game at Beaver Materials Field.

The Leos do charitable work in the community and are currently gearing up to collect new and used book bags, Smith said. The bags will be filled with blankets, hats, scarves, gloves, sweatshirts, adult coloring books, colored pencils, hand warmers, granola bars and personal hygiene products. The more of these items that are donated, the less money that the club has to spend. In 2021, the Leos filled 54 book bags, which were delivered to St. Vincent DePaul in Noblesville and are in-turn taken to homeless people in downtown Indianapolis. The club’s record year for bags has been 108.

The Leos adopt a family or two for the holidays and are given a wish list for members, who go shopping to fulfill family requests. Then they wrap the gifts, club members critiquing each others’ wrapping styles, Smith said. Meals made and frozen by Leo Club members also get delivered to the families with gifts.

The Leo Club members volunteer at various events in the community. My daughter, for instance, a Leo, volunteered at the Hinkle Creek Elementary School carnival in the spring, and there are plans to volunteer at other elementary carnivals next year. Leos have also filled Thanksgiving baskets for Good Samaritan Network of Hamilton County at the Fairgrounds.

The Leos wanted to give back to the community in the form of a scholarship, so the club offered a $500 scholarship. Then, thanks to donations by a “retired member of the Noblesville community,” the club has since been able to give away a $1,000 scholarship, which goes to a graduating senior who has “endured or overcome a great obstacle during their school years, was able to still get the job done in the classroom, is an upstanding human at NHS, while still finding time to give back in the community,” Smith said.

Five years ago, the Leos decided to buy new clothes for two graduating seniors whose families are in need, recommended by the NHS guidance department. So the club sent them anonymously to Kohls to shop with $150 from the Leos.

If the Leos would come up with more money, if the bake sales and “Selfie Nights” become more profitable, Leo Club members would like to shop for groceries and deliver to needy Noblesville school families, who would have anonymity. “Kids need to learn to shop, and budget to shop, and there are a lot of families in the community that having enough food to get through the week, would be a huge shot in the arm,” Smith said.

The Leos meet during Academic Lab study hall at the end of the school day on Gold Day schedules, which alternate every other day with Black Day schedules.

The Leos also help out each year with the Lions Club Pork Chop Dinner usually the first Friday in June. My daughter helped with the dinner, by clearing tables while other members were serving desserts and pouring beverages. Leo Club members also have helped set up for the Lions dodgeball and a few years ago at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Leo Club members enjoyed a year-end celebration with pizza and bowling at Bowl 32 in Noblesville.

What’s next, I asked? “Good question,” Smith said. “We are always looking for ways to get involved. Big numbers this year just means more strong minds and strong backs to help out.”

Smith, who grew up on Indianapolis’ Eastside and attended Scecina Memorial High School in the 1970s, is the seventh of eight children in a big Catholic family. His parents were big in getting the St. Vincent DePaul Society in Indianapolis big in the 1970s when he was in high school. He gave up many Saturday mornings picking up donated washers and dryers and refrigerators by people, then delivering them to people in need of those items. Smith said, Smith has taught at NHS ceramics for 31 years and enjoys being involved outside of the typical responsibilities of a teacher.

He said, “My parents taught me to give back when I was a kid, and I like showing and teaching kids at NHS that it feels good to help others.”

As the Leos were breaking down the “Chicken Selfies” booth at the end of Friday night football, there was some talk, wondering what animal would be at the “Selfies” booth the next time.

Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com