While Patrick Ewing is busily devoting time to help others through Kiwanis, the organization slyly slides little joys back into his life. Ewing, who just turned 45, is a member of the Kiwanis clubs of Victoria and Oak Bay.
“My first Kiwanis service project was before I knew what Kiwanis was,” Ewing said. “I was in Grade 6 and 7, and was one of those in the school patrol program at [then] Monterey elementary.”
That program, which dates back to the mid 1930s, is sponsored by Victoria Kiwanis. He rediscovered the connection later, noticing the Kiwanis safety patrol badge among the many covering his childhood Boy Scout blanket.
“I didn’t even realize I was involved in Kiwanis service,” Ewing said with a laugh. He got more formally involved when he discovered Circle K during ‘clubs day’ early in his tenure as a student at the University of Victoria.
“There was this table that had a sign that said ‘beach cleanup-slash scavenger hunt’ and I thought ‘well that sounds fun’,” Ewing said. “We went down to Gyro Park and cleaned the beach, with prizes for the grossest item and things like that.”
It proved a good way to make friends and connections in university while he grew to enjoy the leadership side of the organization.
At 39, he became the youngest member ever to serve as governor of the Pacific Northwest District. As PNW chair for The Eliminate Project, he helped raise more than $500,000 towards Kiwanis International’s global campaign to eliminate the death of mothers and infants from maternal/neonatal tetanus.
“One of the things that make me feel really good is the Eliminate Project and being able to raise half a a million dollars for that project,” Ewing said. “There’s tetanus in the soil and it can’t be avoided. It’s especially lethal during the birthing process … a child born perfectly healthy gets infected and it attacks the nerves and it makes light, sounds and touch extremely painful. The child has convulsions strong enough to tear muscles and break bones until the child dies – usually within a week. And it’s entirely preventable. “
When the project started, a child died every nine minutes. It’s now down to a death every 11 minutes, which indicates progress.
“It’s still too many but we’ve reduced the number of countries where this is occurring from 41 when we started to 24 now. So we’re making progress but we still have a way to go,” Ewing said.
In the time between, Ewing joined the Gordon Head Club, then Sidney, then Victoria in 2007. A few years back his father John joined Oak Bay’s Kiwanis and then so did Ewing’s wife Kristina.
“I found I was going to as many of their meetings as Victoria meetings, so [last] year I joined as well,” he said.
“We actually met through Circle K,” Ewing said of wife Kristina. “We were both working on the Pacific Northwest board together … we were friends and lost touch.
The couple, who share a Dec. 19 birthday as well, reconnected years later through Kiwanis and they married the year he became governor.
“It was somehow meant to be. We would not have run into each other if it wasn’t for Circle K and Kiwanis,” Ewing said.
This year is his first of three years as trustee, just the second British Columbian in 100 years to serve on the international board. He was among the elected officers delegated last July during the Kiwanis International convention in Chiba, Japan. That trip took Ewing home in a sense. “That’s the first time I’ve been back to Japan since I was born there,” he explained.
“Being able to serve on the international board and work with people from the Philippines and Malaysia and Austria … it’s a unique opportunity,” he added. “I’m very lucky to be able to do that. It doesn’t matter how much you give you always get more back. It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve been able to meet people from all over the world.”
This year Kiwanis International celebrates 100 years of service to children around the world.
“Anyone can spare a few hours each month to volunteer or be part of a wonderful community service organization like Kiwanis,” he said. “My wife and I both work full time but we make time for Kiwanis because it is so fun and rewarding. If you are thinking of making a new year’s resolution to help others, I’d be happy to help you.”