Touchstone Story–Project Martina

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For more than 15 years, Lions in Italy have been fighting cancer by helping the nation’s youth take steps to reduce their risk of cancer and understand the importance of early diagnosis and care.

In 1999, Lions in Padua, Italy, who were also doctors, began offering cancer education seminars at local high schools at the request of a local cancer awareness association. They taught warning signs and shared with the teenagers that living a healthy lifestyle—following a proper diet, avoiding smoking and being more physically active—can help reduce the risk of cancer.

The Lions knew without a doubt that the health education sessions had to continue once they heard the wish of Martina, a young woman with breast cancer. Martina’s fervent desire was simple: “that teenagers be precisely informed and educated about caring for their own health.”

Students and parents agreed. Each year, Lions, who were medical professionals participated in the cancer awareness seminars—called Project Martina—and improved and expanded the educational materials. Realizing they had developed something special, the Lions of District 108 TA3 in Northern Italy put their materials online, including slides, posters, handouts and questionnaires, so that Lions across Italy could implement the program in their schools as well.

By 2006, Project Martina was gaining recognition from the local government. By 2008, it had spread throughout Italy to other Lions districts. Italy’s education and health ministries endorsed the effort. And from 2011 to 2012, Lions in Italy designated Project Martina their national service project.

Through a series of lessons, Project Martina teaches how to prevent and fight cancer, and highlights specific forms such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, thyroid cancer and lymphoma. Cancers likely to be found in young adults, such as melanoma and testicular cancer, also have dedicated lessons. The seminars are always coordinated by a Lion, but other organizations and doctors who are not Lions recognize its value and sometimes partner with Lions clubs to implement Project Martina. A committee of science professionals periodically updates the lessons and slides.

Participant questionnaires are monitored for ways to improve the program, and the responses to the questionnaires continue to be overwhelmingly positive with nine out of 10 students saying they would recommend Project Martina to their peers. Some of the comments from the surveys include: “Thanks for opening up our eyes.” “Make these meetings mandatory.” “Being a smoker, I will think many times before I light the cigarette.” “Viva il Lions Club!”

Knowledge is key to early detection. Prompt diagnosis and treatment, as well as preventative care, can save lives today and for years to come. Leos are translating the materials so that Lions and Leos in other countries can implement the program as well. As of 2014, Project Martina could be found in Albania, China, Croatia and Slovenia.

Italy’s Lions and Leos are doing their part to spread the word about cancer awareness and prevention. But they are also creating new advocates. “I talked with my family,” one student shared. “My mother has decided to get her first mammogram.”

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!



Leo Club Awareness Month Checklist!

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April is Leo Club Awareness Month! During April, we encourage Lions and Leos to raise awareness of the importance of Leo clubs in their communities. Leo clubs create a platform for young people to serve as positive agents of change and develop into service-minded community leaders. For 60 years, Leo clubs have challenged the youth of the world to engage in local, national and international service, creating a network that today consists of over 7,000 clubs in over 146 countries.

Raise awareness about your Leo Club! Use this checklist to spread the word on the importance of Leos:

  • Update your social media profile picture with the #proudLEO filter
  • Plan a joint service project with local Lions clubs and post on social media with #LeoAwareness
  • Upload a photo or video with the #proudLEO hashtag and tell us why you serve
  • Share some of our downloadable badges on your social media pages
  • Get featured on Lions Instagram by sharing your favorite Leo service project with #LeoAwareness

Be sure to check out the Leo Awareness Month Toolkit for some great social media banners and badges. Follow the Leo Club Program Facebook page for more exciting stories and to learn about other opportunities to promote and celebrate Leo clubs.


Touchstone Story #76–Freedom to Move

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Lions in Australia and New Zealand are giving children with cerebral palsy—who are often confined to wheelchairs—a chance to stand on their own and to experience walking for the first time in their lives with a specialized piece of equipment known as the Hart Walker.

“The first time I saw a child with disabilities empowered by the Hart Walker, my heart nearly melted,” said International President Barry J. Palmer, an Australian who served from 2013 to 2014. “I feel the same way every single time I see children take their first steps in a Hart Walker.”

Developed in Britain in 1989 and refined through subsequent models, the Hart Walker has four wheels, a frame and complex bracing at the hips, knees and ankles that allow children who normally use wheelchairs to stand and propel themselves forward.

The new freedom of movement strengthens children’s underused muscles and lungs and boosts their confidence. But the walker is expensive, so Lions in Australia and New Zealand got to work bringing these amazing walkers at no cost to their families.

Children with mobility challenges can “walk with their mates, hold hands, they’re able to run,” said Cindy Shaw, an Australian whose quadriplegic son Adam received a walker from the Lions. “He feels very strong, and that he can do anything.”

Australian Lions have made the Hart Walker one of their signature programs. Since establishing the Australian Lions Children’s Mobility Foundation in 1999, Australian Lions have fitted more than 1,900 children with the walking devices. Palmer was a driving force in that effort.

In his inaugural address at the 2013 Lions Clubs International Convention in Hamburg, Germany, he told the audience how at a club in Australia he watched the moment a girl was put into a Hart Walker. “She smiles at us, gets this look of determination, then … she is walking.” The device had “changed her life.”

Similarly, in New Zealand, Lions have donated Hart Walkers to help many children. In the spring of 2009, then International President Al Brandel was visiting Wellington, New Zealand, and met 7-year-old Alyssa McCarty as she was being measured for adjustments to her Hart Walker. The retired New York City police detective sat on the floor for an extended chat with the girl and saw her stand. It was a moving experience, he said.

Later that year at the 2009 International Convention in Minneapolis, Multiple District 202 of New Zealand was recognized for its work with the Hart Walkers by receiving the Best District Service Project award at the International Hero Awards ceremony.

With the help of Lions, children once confined to wheelchairs can stand up, look their friends in the eye and join in the fun.

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!



Touchstone Story #17–Lions Clubs International Foundation

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After a half-century of global expansion, Lions established Lions Clubs International Foundation in 1968 as a way to amplify the power of Lion giving.

Since 1917, individual Lions clubs and districts had achieved remarkable success in providing service to people in need. But as Lions expanded around the world, a new way of funding Lion service was needed.

The solution: LCIF, which serves as Lions Clubs International’s charitable arm. The foundation supports the compassionate work of Lions worldwide, by providing grants for local and global projects that help people to see and hear better, combat measles, provide disaster relief, support youth and improve communities.

In keeping with the phrase, “Lions Helping Lions Serve the World,” the foundation allows Lions to respond collectively by channeling funds to humanitarian projects around the globe. The structure helps Lions to help others on an even larger scale than clubs can do on their own, according to Past International President Joe Preston, who served from 2014 to 2015.

It is a “logical extension of the Lions’ model,” Preston said. Just as individuals join a Lions club “because our service is more valuable when we unite with like-minded others, we support LCIF because our funds go a lot further when put into a common pool,” he said.

Because it is centralized, and big enough to collaborate with other nonprofit groups as well corporate partners, the foundation can move quickly and effectively. Major corporations cited that efficiency when they ranked LCIF as the “best nongovernmental organization to work with” in a 2007 Financial Times survey.

Among the foundation’s most prominent successes is its SightFirst program, which funds efforts to fight the major causes of preventable and reversible blindness, and provides services to persons who are blind or have a visual impairment.

As part of that global program, LCIF supports eye screenings and sight-restoring surgeries, as well as the distribution of medications to help prevent eye diseases plaguing developing nations. Since 1999, through a high-profile partnership with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s nonprofit organization The Carter Center, LCIF has provided more than 271 million treatments to stop the parasitic infection known as river blindness, saving the sight of millions of people.

Its humanitarian efforts also include long-term funding to fight measles, a disease that claims millions of lives yearly in developing nations. LCIF raised US$10 million for vaccinations in 2012 through its One Shot, One Life measles initiative, and in the following year it committed to raising an additional US$30 million for immunization programs by 2017.

The foundation’s capacity to provide financial help has swelled dramatically over the years, as LCIF’s widely admired disaster-relief program demonstrates. Its first grant came in 1973, when it provided a modest US$5,000 to help flooding victims in South Dakota. By 2010, when an earthquake devastated parts of Haiti, LCIF mobilized US$6 million in immediate and long-term relief efforts. And when an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011, the foundation provided US$21 million in aid.

LCIF also has programs designed to help young people by building schools and day care centers, and it helps youngsters learn critical life skills through the Lions Quest program.

While it is best known for funding large-scale humanitarian efforts, LCIF puts most of its dollars to work each year in the form of grants that help local Lions clubs improve their communities.

In Minnesota, for example, the foundation helped local Lions renovate the dormitory at a camp for people with mental and physical disabilities. And in the African nation of Burkina Faso, Lions of District 403A1 used an LCIF grant to build a new school for children in the remote town of Kyon.

International President Wing-Kun Tam, who served from 2010 to 2011, told LION Magazine that with its efficiency and broad focus, “LCIF is an incredible vehicle for Lions to serve both across borders and in their own communities.”

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!



Touchstone Story #56–After the Flood

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In Lions Clubs International’s first 50 years, local clubs had done their best to provide aid and hope in times of great need. But there had not been a good way to harness the collective power of Lions, other than through outside organizations. That all changed in 1968. LCI established its own charitable organization, initially called Lions International Foundation, to gather and distribute funds to Lions districts for humanitarian efforts and disaster relief, and to combat global problems such as sight loss.

The foundation was on firm footing and ready to assist when on June 9, 1972, what looked to be just an average summer thunderstorm halted in its path over the Black Hills of South Dakota and dumped 12 to 15 inches of rain in a matter of hours. It didn’t take long before the water began to rise in the canyons below.

That evening, Canyon Lake, a manmade lake just upstream from Rapid City, S.D., USA, swelled until its dam burst, sending a wall of water crashing down a creek onto Rapid City residents. The flash flood was one of the worst in U.S. history, claiming the lives of 238 people, injuring more than 3,000 and leaving 5,000 people homeless. Survivors spent hours clinging to trees and rooftops before being rescued, only to find little trace of the life they knew just hours before.

Their cries for help were heard not only by Lions on the ground, but by Lions around the world. In 1972, the foundation made its first grant to District 5-SW for US$5,000 to assist the South Dakota flood victims.

Hurricane Agnes struck just a few weeks later, flooding towns along the eastern seaboard from New York to the District of Columbia. Once again, Lions got to work. The foundation donated thousands of dollars to Lions serving the victims of the hurricane while individual Lions clubs also lent a hand. After their club was destroyed in the hurricane, Lions in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, USA, collected clothing and household goods for other local victims.

The foundation soon had opportunity to expand its reach to other humanitarian needs around the world. In December 1972, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake shook the city of Managua, Nicaragua, bringing down homes and businesses and killing thousands. Meanwhile, India continued to suffer from the ravages of a years-long drought. The foundation sent US$20,000 to Nicaragua and US$26,809 to a district in India. It also made a US$10,000 grant to a sight conservation program in Bangladesh.

Renamed Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) in 1980, the foundation is still helping local Lions meet needs large and small all over the world. Because of its support—and the backing of 1.35 million Lions—when a disaster strikes or humanitarian need arises, there are few limits to what Lions can do to help.

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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