Lions and Monkeys and Bears, Oh My

By Rita Buettner

When John Ramming, MBA ’85, and I discussed where we might take his photo for the August issue, he mentioned a storage facility. I hesitated. Then I heard him say, “That’s where we keep the animals. We have an eight-foot tall giraffe….”

“A giraffe?” I asked. As it turns out, Ramming—because of his work for the Courage Lion Program, which you’ll learn more about in our next issue—also has a nearly life-size lion, kangaroo, grizzly bear, elephant, monkey, birds, and a few other furry creatures.

And the giraffe, as I learned first-hand yesterday, is, indeed, eight feet tall. In fact, the animals are designed with metal structures inside so that when Ramming takes the animals to gatherings for children who are critically ill, traumatized, abused, or in crisis, they can sit on them.

The animals are part of Ramming’s program which has provided stuffed Duffy the Lions and books about Duffy—a lion who finds courage within himself—to children in 114 hospitals, treatment facilities, and on Medevac helicopters throughout the United States and Canada. The program has given comfort and courage to more than 36,000 children.

“That’s what we can count. We know it’s beyond that,” Ramming said today. Sharing stories of veterans who cry when he speaks with their children through the Wounded Warrior Project, he got choked up. He is a man with a mission—and he is grateful to be able to serve through his work for Courage Unlimited Corporation DBA Courage Lion. “It has been a blessing of God.”

The stuffed lions distributed through the program are made in China, packed in a 40-foot-long container, and shipped across the ocean to Baltimore. Then they are stored—gratis—at Von Paris Moving & Storage in Savage, Md.

Back in 2006 when Ramming asked Bill Wachter, a fellow Knight of Columbus, whether Von Paris Moving & Storage might be able to let them use some storage space, he was talking about a couple palettes. Now he keeps 30,000 lions, books, and CDs there—and the Von Paris employees dedicated a whole day to setting up a space for the photo shoot yesterday.

“We’re really happy to do this for him,” said Wachter, president of Von Paris Moving & Storage.

“You can tell the real heroes because they act like it’s not a big deal,” said Ramming, thanking the company for its support. He also expressed his gratitude to Loyola. “They taught me everything I need to know from a business perspective.”

The Von Paris chairman of the board is another Loyola grad, Lee Von Paris, ’52 (below, left to right in photo by David Rehor, are Wachter, Ramming, and Von Paris). Von Paris, a descendant of the man who founded the company in 1892, met his fellow Greyhound, Ramming, for the first time today. Von Paris majored in history at Loyola, and he reminisced about a favorite professor, Harry Kirwan. “He always had a cane, and he had a limp. Brilliant man. One of the highest intellectuals I’ve ever met.”

But higher on Von Paris’s mind—as a former member of the Loyola lacrosse team—was the Greyhounds’ recent NCAA Championship. He describes his own Loyola lacrosse team as “learning.” “We did play Maryland,” said the father of two and grandfather of four.

As our freelance photographer, David Rehor, packed up his lights, ladder, and other equipment, I thanked Ramming for making the photo shoot possible—and for taking so much time with us.

“God bless you,” he said, and asked me to keep him in mind and let him know if anyone at Loyola could benefit from the services of the Courage Lion Program. “Remember, this is a two-way street.”

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1 Comment

  • Posted by Anthony Joseph Sacco, Sr. | September 3, 2012

    Professor Harry Kirwan was, I believe, Chairman of the Political Science Department when I attended Loyola. God rest his soul, he taught me Constitutional Law. He was the driving force, one might say, behind my taking the LSAT and later obtaining a law degree and practicing law for 23 years in Baltimore County, MD.
    Recently wrote a piece about him and it’s posted on my blog,

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