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!
In 2012, Superstorm Sandy struck the eastern coast of the United States, claiming at least 125 lives and resulting in US$62 billion in damage and losses. Thousands of people were displaced, left without water, electricity or food. Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) responded by awarding a US$100,000 Major Catastrophe grant to help local Lions rebuild their communities.
But, when your home is underwater and your family has lost everything, rebuilding your community might not be at the top of your to-do list. Instead, you are trying to find shelter, food, water and clothing. That is where Lions really shine!
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Lions from all over the world – including Texas – stepped up to help those reeling from the disaster, mobilizing an additional US$827,505 for relief efforts. Now, five years later, the Lions of New York are returning the favor. Working directly with Lions in Texas to determine the best ways they can help, Lions in New York have been working tirelessly to collect, package and ship goods to Texas. Last Monday, more than 200 Lions and community volunteers packed a truck with US$40,000 worth of non-perishable food, mini refrigerators, school supplies, water and clothing, and sent it to Lions in Conroe, 40 miles outside of Houston. That was only the first truck, and more are expected in the coming weeks. There are 18 collections sites across Long Island where people can drop off their donations and trust that Lions will get those donations to the people who need them most. If your club would like to coordinate with local relief efforts in Texas, you can contact the districts affected at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lions around the globe are stepping up to help, as well. The Bremerton Central Lions Club in Washington, USA, recently held a fundraiser to benefit hurricane victims. Lions clubs around the world are doing all they can to send their support to hurricane victims in the USA. If your club is supporting Hurricane Harvey relief, you can share your story by contacting LCIFstories@lionsclubs.org – we’d love to hear from you!
Remember, making a donation to LCIF is a great way to amplify the power of your gift. Your donation, combined with those of your fellow Lions, allows LCIF to continue to meet the needs of communities around the world as soon as disasters occur. Please consider making a contribution to LCIF’s disaster relief fund today.
Australian William R. Tresise was about to exceed the age limit of his national volunteer organization in the mid-1940s when he stumbled upon the opportunity to bring the service programs and international friendship of Lions Clubs International to his home country.
A builder with a keen interest in volunteering, Tresise, for many years, had been an active member of Apex, a young people’s service organization in Australia. But Apex had a strict age limit of 40. In 1946, as Tresise neared the milestone birthday, he tried unsuccessfully to form a senior organization for former members. Soon, he would be forced to retire from the group, even though he was eager to continue serving his community.
In his last year with Apex, Tresise traveled to San Francisco to represent the organization and his country at a 1946 service clubs conference. A chance meeting in California with Fred W. Smith, a Lion who went on to serve as international president from 1947 to 1948, couldn’t have been better timed.
Lions Clubs, Tresise discovered, had no age limit. The organization was dedicated to service, and it was expanding around the world. Both men saw an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. Tresise spoke with other Lions leaders—including Melvin Jones, the organization’s founder and secretary-general, and soon found himself appointed a provisional district governor of Lions Clubs charged with founding a Lions club in Australia.
Tresise went home to Lismore, New South Wales. Although the city was small, he had plenty of business contacts in his hometown, and he invited many of them to hear about the Lions organization. His enthusiasm for Lions and its mission was infectious. Within a year, the Lismore Lions Club organized, and on September 29, 1947, the club received its charter, making Australia the 18th nation to join Lions Clubs.
Tresise continued to spread the news about Lions, serving as a Lions district governor and in other positions. “There was the satisfaction of seeing the result,” Tresise said, “together with meeting and working with kindred spirits: men and women of such a high caliber.” At the time of Tresise’s death in 1975, almost 1,000 clubs could be found all over Australia.
Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. Don’t forget to share these stories with new members so they gain an understanding of Lions history!
As Lions, we believe that kindness matters. We are guided by our founder, Melvin Jones, who said “you can’t get very far until you start doing something for someone else.” That’s why when disaster strikes, whether it be in Texas, India or anywhere else around the world, we take action.
Hurricane Harvey struck the south and central coast of Texas on Friday, August 25 with 125 mile per hour winds, then lingered onshore for 5 days, gathering moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Rain, in some areas over 50 inches, laid waste to over 50 counties in Texas, overflowing rivers and levees. To make matters worse, the storm briefly returned to the Gulf of Mexico, regained strength, and made a second landfall near the Texas and Louisiana border. Authorities have used the words “epic” and “catastrophic” to describe the devastation.
By Sunday, August 27th, LCIF approved a major catastrophe grant of US$100,000. We are working closely with Lions leaders in the area of destruction to determine how we can utilize our resources to make the highest possible impact.
Currently, local, State and Federal agencies are conducting search and rescue operations. Many areas are inaccessible. As search and rescue comes to an end, the recovery phase will begin. The recovery phase could last for weeks, months, or even years.
The Hurricane Harvey disaster radius encompasses four districts, 2-A3, 2-S1, 2-S2, 2-S4, with two others on the periphery, 2-S5, 2-X3. The District Governors of the four hardest hit districts have formed a Disaster Committee, which will conduct a needs assessment and coordinate relief efforts as the flood waters recede. They are calling on Lions everywhere to support Lions Clubs International Foundation’s disaster response efforts by making a donation.
Lions who wish to offer their support by providing supplies or volunteering should reach out via email@example.com to coordinate with the local response efforts.
Because we are global, we respond wherever there are people in need. Even as we address this current disaster in the United States, parts of India, Nepal and Bangladesh are being deluged by monsoon rains. In Mumbai alone, over 1,000 people have been reported killed in the floods. In the past 3 months, LCIF has approved twenty emergency grants to South Asia, totaling US$125,000. Lions of India who wish to donate, and have any questions on how to do so, should contact the ISAAME Secretariat office in Mumbai at LionsIndia@lionsclubs.org.
I know you join me in keeping the victims of Hurricane Harvey and flooding in South Asia in your thoughts and prayers.
Chancellor Bob Corlew
Chairman, Lions Clubs International Foundation
“We Serve” is the Lions Clubs’ motto, and the truth behind those words can be seen whenever Lions embark on a humanitarian mission to help those in need.
One of the Lions’ “vision missions” was held in Ensenada, Mexico, in 2009. Eighty miles south of San Diego, California, Ensenada is a tourist destination and cruise ship port, but many of the locals have never had an eye exam. Lions clubs in the United States and Mexico teamed up to change that.
“Missions are rewarding because they’re hands-on service,” said Bill Iannacone of the Walnut Creek Host Lions Club of California. About 700,000 pairs of eyeglasses were collected in California, then shipped across the border, where Ensenada Lions received them, set up a location for the mission event and publicized it locally.
Over the course of two days, more than 800 locals who couldn’t afford health care received eye exams, free eyeglasses and even eye drops to treat allergies and conjunctivitis from four doctors, six technicians and dozens of Lions.
Elena Galindo and her young son both received glasses. “Not only will this help my family financially, but I was able to see the smile on my son’s face, and he was able to see better,” she said.
Missions around the world offer the chance for clubs in neighboring countries to work together. Club members travel together, work together and meet new friends. As Sue Topf of the Clermont Lions Club in Indianapolis, Indiana, said, “These missions change your life. Last trip we fit a 100-year-old man with his first pair of glasses. He had walked down from the mountain in his Sunday best.”
Vision missions are a major part of the Lions’ humanitarian work, but that’s only one way of serving. The year 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of an annual medical, dental and ophthalmic mission jointly organized by Lions clubs in Japan and the Philippines, providing teeth cleaning, information on oral hygiene, and vision and medical screenings to more than 1,000 people in the Philippines. Other clubs team up for one-time missions, such as the Roma Castel Sant’Angelo Lions Club of Italy, which helped build a well and provided hygiene training to a village in Benin, Africa; and the Mijas Lions Club of Spain, which equipped two Bolivian schools with furniture and school supplies.
“I get more out of it than I give,” said Jim Ashcraft of the San Diego Missions Lions Club, who was on hand in Ensenada. That feeling of service shows that these gestures, both large and small, can have a big impact—and not just for the recipients.
Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. They’re a great resource for promoting service at your club meetings!
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