ALLENTOWN, NJ (MONMOUTH)–When the 2023 Allentown Lions Club Memorial Day Parade steps off at the corner of Allen Drive and Main Street on Monday, May 29th at 10:30 a.m. sharp, it will be led by one of the Historic Borough’s most dedicated citizens: Lion Kevin O’Neill of the Borough.
O’Neill, though no stranger to leadership positions, said he was both surprised and humbled by the citation. “To be named Parade Grand Marshal is, of course, a special honor and the Lions Club is a very special organization to me because it offers the opportunity to give back directly to the community. We serve wherever and whenever there is a need. That is what it’s all about.”
Every spring, the Lions Club seeks to honor one person who has served the community in a significant way over a period of years–even decades, said Parade Chair Rob Schmitt. “It’s never an easy choice,” Schmitt said. “The Committee considers many candidates over the course of a few months. We look, first and foremost, for a combination of military service and community service. That might include service organizations like the Lions, but it might also be someone who volunteers with the Ambulance Squad, or the Fire Company–or both, or who has coached kids for many years, or run one or several of our scouting organizations over the years, or done other work that betters our town and sets an example of selfless service for others.”
As a Veteran of the U.S. Navy (Corpsman), a 25-year Lion, a 37-year member of the Knights of Columbus, a 38-year member of American Legion Post #31, a 10-year veteran of the Hope Fire Co. a former Allentown Troop 180 Scout Master, Cub Pack 180 Leader, and member of the troop’s Executive Committee, a local youth baseball & soccer coach and a professional drug and alcohol counselor (LCSW), and as a noted friend and active citizen of Allentown Borough, Schmitt noted “so, all things considered, Kevin kind of fits the bill, right?” He added that list of what O’Neill actually accomplished for the community–and especially for the youth–within those organizations and “opportunities to give back” would undoubtedly fill volumes.
O’Neill, 63, of Greenfield Drive, has been married to his wife Eileen for 40 years and together they raised 3 children: Riley, 35; Molly, 29; and Casey, 25. (Both Riley & Casey are Allentown Eagle Scouts). “Eilleen and I moved to Allentown from Twin Rivers back in 1985. We had a condo there and had been looking in the area for a house and when we saw Allentown and then this house with this great backyard–we knew right away that this was the perfect place to raise our family.” O’Neill said.
The Grand Marshal said that he is particularly proud of reintroducing the outdoor adventure component to Allentown Scouting during his tenure with the troop. “The cultivation of the outdoor activities and high adventure program, for me, was so important in many ways: as a former Boy Scout–a kid growing up in Elizabeth, NJ–as a parent; and, of course later, as a Scoutmaster.” O’Neill independently took the rigorous BSA Assistant Scoutmaster training courses and put it to good use for Cub Pack 180 and Boy Scout Troop 180a. “I was passionate about getting the troop hiking and camping again, but Bill Hoover (also an Allentown Lion involved with scouting) introduced kayaking, and brought back canoeing, and water safety. In my time as Scoutmaster, we doubled the size of the troop.” Staying on the topic of Scouting and its importance in a community, O’Neil commented, “As a boy, I was surrounded by strong men of integrity who gave back. I credit them with showing me the example of what I would do later. I have tried to live my life by the Boy Scout Oath and Law and hope that the young people I have worked with grow up to be leaders who do the same.”
The proud Navy veteran, whose father served in the Merchant Marines during WWII, was born and raised in Elizabeth, NJ. O’Neill said, by the end of high school in 1973, he was eager to strike out on his own and joined the Navy where he served as a Corpsman from 1973-1977. He was keen to serve his country and volunteered for the FMF advanced training that would enable him to work on the front lines with the U.S. Marine Corps on the battlefields of Vietnam. This was not to be, however, as hostilities ended at the same time as his training. The young Corpsman was to spend his service as a Hospital Corpsman, first at the Naval Hospital in Orlando, Fl. (where he also became a licensed EMT), and later, at Naval Hospital in Philadelphia working in the area of Neuropsychology.
O’Neill, who earned his BA from Rutgers University in 1980, and a MSW at the University of Pennsylvania in 1982, has worked for NJ Transit for the past 17 years as the Senior Employee Assistance Professional. He earned a second M.A. in Administration from Rider University in 1989. He has been a Therapist at Main Street Counseling for the past 3 years.
Lions Club President Chuck Tkachuck of Millstone Twp. said O’Neill perfectly personifies the Lions mission to serve others wherever they are needed. “Lion Kevin is the example for the rest of us to follow. It’s that simple,” Tkachuck said. “We Lions put aside politics, religion, socioeconomic class, and all other barriers that keep us apart. Our mission is to serve others without expectation of reward or even acknowledgement. Kevin O’Neill has spent a lifetime exemplifying those high ideals of leadership, personal integrity, friendship, and service to others. But I must add that Kevin is a man known for his kindness and profound faith. We are beyond excited and proud to honor him as our 2023 Memorial Day Parade Grand Marshal.”
The Allentown Lions Club Memorial Day Parade is scheduled for Monday May 29, 2023, at 10:30am. It begins at the corner of Allen Drive & Main Street in the Borough, turns left up High Street, and ends at the lower Newell Elementary School Parking lot on High Street/ Rt. 539. Immediately following the parade is the Memorial Service for the Gallant Fallen at the War Memorial located at the upper parking lot of Newell Elementary. The Allentown Lions Club encourages all to attend this solemn and moving service.
For more information please contact Memorial Day Parade Chair Rob Schmitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 609-364-0176
When the 2023 Allentown Lions Club Memorial Day Parade steps off at the corner of Allen Drive and Main Street on Monday, May 29th at 10:30 a.m. sharp, it will be led by one of the Historic Borough’s most dedicated citizens: Lion Kevin O’Neill of the Borough.
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