Alabama Lions Honor Legacy of Helen Keller

There is no more powerful example of someone lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness than Helen Keller.

Standing on the stage at the Lions Clubs International Convention in 1925, blind and deaf, Keller challenged Lions to become crusaders against the darkness and commit to preventing blindness. This passionate appeal set our organization on a new course, with a renewed purpose: Knights of the Blind. Since that time, Keller’s heartfelt plea has impacted hundreds of millions of lives around the world through the vision-related work that Lions do every day.

To honor the extraordinary legacy of Helen Keller, the Lions in Multiple District 34 in her home state of Alabama undertook a larger-than-life Legacy Project. They commissioned world-renowned sculptor Craigger Browne, president of the Sylacauga Lions Club, to create a life-size statue of Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. The women are portrayed standing at a water pump, which is where Keller uttered her very first word—“water.” The statue has a working water feature, with water coming out by the women’s hands and trickling into a bucket.

“We wanted to honor Keller for the extraordinary work she did,” said Johnny Tuten, past district governor of MD 34, and one of the original proponents of the statue. “But we also wanted to pay proper tribute to Anne Sullivan, because without her, Keller would not have been able to accomplish nearly as much as she did. Sullivan, herself an orphan and partially blind, overcame her own set of challenges.”

The statue was carved in white marble from Sylacauga, Alabama, considered to be some of the finest marble in the world. Six months into the process, Browne discovered a major flaw in the area of the marble that was to be Sullivan’s skirt. So he procured a new block of marble and started all over. After more than two years in the making, the statue now occupies a place of honor at Keller’s birthplace, Ivy Green, in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

“Last year, more than 38,000 people from all over the world visited Helen Keller’s birthplace,” remarked Ron Seybold, Multiple District 34’s Centennial Coordinator. “We wanted them to experience this emotionally moving statue that portrays the moment when the world of communication opened for Keller. Visitors have been moved to tears while viewing the statue, and it has become one of the most photographed icons at Ivy Green.”

The official unveiling and dedication ceremony was held in September 2017. IPIP Chancellor Bob Corlew delivered the keynote address, saying, “This statue depicts an amazing moment in time that changed the world—and Lions Clubs International. And now this moment has been captured in stone so that it can be shared for generations to come.”

Helen Keller continues to be an inspiration to millions of people around the world—those who are unable to see or hear, and those who can. She taught us that we could accomplish anything and everything we wanted—no matter our challenges—as long as we understood that each of us holds the key to our own happiness and success. The Multiple District 34 Lions clubs’ statue of Keller will endure as a lasting tribute to her spirit of irrepressible perseverance and eternal optimism.

What will your Lions club legacy be? This is the last year to celebrate the Centennial with a Legacy Project, so start planning yours today!