Eastern Canada’s young leaders gather in P.E.I. for Key Club convention

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Kiwanis Club of Charlottetown member Jim Marshall, left, shows incoming Kiwanis International president John Button a display highlighting some volunteerism performed by Key Club members at Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown. Button attended the Eastern Canada Key Club District Convention in Charlottetown this weekend.

Kiwanis Club member Jim Marshall is certain he met at least a couple of Canada’s future lieutenant-governors, a governor-general and perhaps even a prime minister this past weekend.

That’s how impressed Marshall was after witnessing more than 325 students from Eastern Canada in action during the Key Club District Convention at the P.E.I. Convention Centre.

Marshall, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Charlottetown and host chair of the convention, compared the leadership qualities shared by the students to those of the Fathers of Confederation that met in the same area during the 1864 Charlottetown Conference 150 years ago.

“If you could just see the energy here of the kids doing their thing and having their meetings, you’d never think some of them are 15, 16-years-old,” said Marshall. “Some of these kids will be the leaders of Canada one day.”

Key Club International is the largest student-led service program in the world and focuses on leadership qualities and building character.

It is part of the Kiwanis International organization with many individual clubs being sponsored by local Kiwanis groups.

John Button, incoming Kiwanis International president, was keynote speaker for the conference.

Button, a Kiwanis member of 35 years who is beginning his term as president this October, said the energy of the weekend rivaled many of the Kiwanis conventions he has attended.

“If we could capture the energy of key clubbers and take that with us to our 100th (Kiwanis International) convention in Indianapolis, it would be fabulous,” said Button. “Indianapolis wouldn’t know what hit it.”

Button said the club has three guiding principles of community service, fellowship and having fun.

“Those are the take home values of Kiwanis and as long as we provide our members with those three things, our future possibilities are limitless,” said Button, whose major goal for his term is focusing on raising $110 million worldwide for immunizations to eliminate Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus.

Annu Puri, former governor of Eastern Canada Key Club, said the conference had a positive mix of meeting new friends and attending leadership workshops.

However, the weekend was also bittersweet for the Kitchener, Ont. resident, who saw his one year term as governor end.

“It’s sad because I’ve had a lot of fun and I’ve been able to make a lot of new memories and meet a lot of cool people,” said Puri. “On the other hand, I’m glad that someone else gets to go through that experience as well. There is obviously that positive aspect.”

Puri joined the club when he discovered it was a student-led service organization.

While admittedly nervous when attending his first meeting, Puri said he quickly felt embraced by the welcoming group.

“That’s what makes Key Club really amazing, there’s the service aspect but there’s also that friendship aspect,” said Puri, who recommended anyone thinking of joining the club give it a shot. “What I’d tell them is step out of your comfort zone, it’s really important to be able to do that and it’s really worth it in the end.”

Button said the success of the weekend already has him looking forward to the Kiwanis Eastern Canada and Caribbean District convention being held in Charlottetown next month from May 15-17.

“I hope the temperature is cranked up a little bit and the ice is out of the harbor but I know the warmth and hospitality will be the same,” he said. “The Kiwanis convention in May is going to be a tremendous success. They know how to do things here.”

Organizations: Key Club, Kiwanis International, P.E.I. Convention Centre Kiwanis Club of Charlottetown Kiwanis Eastern Canada

Geographic location: Eastern Canada, Charlottetown, Indianapolis Kitchener Caribbean District

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