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USM Children’s Center kids continue tradition painting SAE Fraternity lions

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 4:55 PM CST

PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - It’s becoming a tradition for kids from the University of Southern Mississippi Children’s Center for Communication and Development to paint the decorative lions on either side of the entry to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Fraternity house.

The first “Lion Painting Day” came to be after a mother posted on Facebook about how much her son loved looking at the lions in front of the SAE house. The fraternity house is right across from the Children’s Center. The brothers soon invited the kids to come over to hang out and have some fun painting the lions to make them even more decorative.

“Lion Painting Day” is something the kids and brothers all look forward to.

“The story of how it got started is pretty special,” says junior Reagan Davis.

“This is my first time getting to experience this, and I just can see how invaluable it is that these kids can have an experience out of the classroom. So it’s definitely something I hope to continue and I’m grateful to be a part of,” says another junior, Jacob Brogan.

Director of the Children’s Center for Communication and Development, Sarah Myers, says tactile interactions like this are important to the kids for fun and learning.

“I think it’s so special that our friends at SAE fraternity invite us over to paint their lions. Not only does it give our kids some incredible experiences interacting with other people right in their community, but it also helps the families understand that their community supports them which is so special and so important,” Myers explains.

The activity creates memories for the kids and brothers that they won’t forget.

“I had one kid one time, he had a good time painting the lions, then he decided to paint all of us as well. It was a good time, it was fun. We all had a good laugh. It’s good to see the kids have fun, we have fun with the kids, it’s a good time for everybody, says senior Julian Rodrigue.

Myers says the interactions are very meaningful for the kids and it’s a tradition she hopes to see continue.

“We also feel it’s just incredibly important that children have experiences with typically developing friends, when they have disabilities, helps each other understand how to interact it’s important,” Myers explains.

The lion painting tradition has sparked a friendship and partnership between the Children’s Center and SAE. SAE brothers often volunteer to help spread mulch and pine needles for their neighbors at the Children’s Center as well as plan future lion painting events.

“Every time it seems to get better and better. They enjoy it, we enjoy it, and there’s time we go over there and help them with their flower beds so it’s a good partnership,” says senior Hunter Buckley.

You can learn more about the Children’s Center for Communication and Development here.

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