Lions have always worked to improve their communities through service. But during the 1940s and 1950s, their community-building efforts involved a great amount of actual building.
Whether paving roads, putting up schools or creating playgrounds, Lions in that era often focused on improving their towns’ physical space. Their efforts were prominent in the both the United States and in the growing number of countries where Lions Clubs International had spread. Wherever Lions built, they made a difference.
In many parts of the world, it was a time of transition and optimism. With World War II at an end, communities once again had time to focus on growth and improvement.
In 1949, Lions in Mexico City built the first of what would become a score of new schools. Belgian Lions began construction of a medical center and prenatal facility in the town of Hingene in 1952. That same year, in rural Shoal Lake, Manitoba, Canada, Lions launched work on a playground.
The public projects that Lions contributed—the neighborhood playgrounds, gyms, campgrounds, scout buildings, memorial fountains and thousands of Lions parks—were highly visible, and many remain prominent in their towns.
Lions were busy in those years, often relying on their resourcefulness and creativity to raise the funds needed to build.
Lions in Arvada, Colorado, needed two years to raise enough money for a tennis court that doubled in winter as a community skating rink, but they made it. In Florida, Lions built a dock for the Boys’ Home Association of Jacksonville that extended 250 feet into the St. Johns River. In the late 1940s in Morrill County, Nebraska, it took Lions four years of fundraising dances and auctions before they had enough money to build a 12-bed hospital in the tiny town of Bridgeport. Lions rolled up their sleeves and built a picturesque Girl Scout camp in Menlo Park, California. And in 1947, Lions in St. George, Utah, helped to build an arena, called the Dixie Sun Bowl, for rodeos and other sporting events.
The Sun Bowl is “a monument to the Lions and to the many people who gave so much to see it evolve from a simple idea to a practical reality,” a St. George Magazine article reported. Local Lion Neal Lundberg, a key player in the Bowl’s creation, said bluntly, “It’s a good example of what can happen when you get a bunch of damned fools headed in the same direction.”
Lions continue to shape their towns with construction projects big and small. In the early 1960s, Lions in Baguio City, Philippines, built the high-profile Melvin Jones Grandstand in the city’s famous Burnham Park. And in the small community of Tottenham, Australia, Lions helped upgrade the local airstrip in 2012, lengthening the runway and installing lighting so medical airlift planes could land.
“The strength of the community is its heart,” said Ben Nicholls, president of the Tottenham Lions Club, who oversaw the project, “and our little community has plenty of heart and have done what was needed.”
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!
Immunization saves millions of lives and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions. Yet, there are more than 19 million unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children in the world, putting them at serious risk of these potentially fatal diseases. Of these children, 1 out of 10 never receive any vaccinations, and most likely have never been seen by the health system.
World Immunization Week – celebrated in the last week of April – aims to highlight the collective action needed to ensure that every person is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) is proud to participate in World Immunization Week. Every day, Lions are mounting social mobilization campaigns, talking to parents and community leaders, and helping to save the lives of countless children from measles.
In 2010, LCIF and Lions made a promise to the children of the world. We committed to raising US$30 million by the end of 2017 to support measles vaccinations for some of the neediest areas of the world.
Not only did we meet our goal, but because of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that actually became US$60 million. Our One Shot: One Life measles vaccination initiative was a tremendous success.
Because of Lions, 88 million children have been vaccinated against this deadly – but preventable – disease. Because of Lions, 61,000 future deaths have been avoided. In fact, in 2016, global measles deaths fell to a historic low of fewer than 90,000.
Thank you, Lions, for your protecting our children.
Cancer is the leading cause of death around the world, and breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed kind of cancer in women. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime, but early detection can help save lives.
Brenda Tibbetts Lund of the Cayman Islands was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. At the time, there was very little information about breast cancer available in Cayman, so Lund worked with the Tropical Gardens Lions Club of the Cayman Islands to establish an awareness program. The efforts of Lund and the Lions led to the area’s first annual 5K walk-run and awareness campaign, which was launched in 1997.
Carmin Godfrey of the Tropical Garden Lions Club said that the breast cancer awareness campaign “became our signature project, because it is an issue that is very dear to our hearts.”
Lund passed away in 1998, and the annual event was renamed the Brenda Tibbetts Lund Memorial 5K Walk/Run in her honor. Hundreds come out every year to support the event, support their community and feel empowered to make a difference.
“When I first found out I had breast cancer, I was very scared,” cancer survivor Becky Ebanks said. Finishing the 5K Walk/Run for the first time gave her a great sense of accomplishment. “My family walked with me. That was very important.”
The 5K is a visible sign of outreach, but it’s the conversations about cancer screening and awareness that happen because of the walk/run that really make the difference. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Tropical Gardens club organizes community forums every October in all seven districts on Grand Cayman. Topics covered in these forums include breast health, self-exams, mammograms and risk factors. The Lions provide vouchers for free mammograms to as many as 600 women a year who otherwise could not afford the cost of the screening.
Since the program’s launch, “the frequency at which you find advanced breast cancer has dropped tremendously,” said Dr. Steve Tomlinson. “Most we’ve seen now are stage 1, stage 2 cancers, with a higher cure rate.”
In addition to local efforts, the Lions Clubs International Foundation has supported cancer-related grants with donations totaling more than US$4 million. About 13,000 women in Venezuela received breast cancer screenings after an LCIF grant provided a mammography machine for District E-1 in Venezuela. In Lebanon and Jordan, Lions helped to equip three clinics that screen approximately 10,000 women every year.
“Education is key,” said Ebanks. “Women need to know they can take control of their health.”
Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive . Don’t forget to share these stories with new members so they gain an understanding of Lions history!
“Stories from the Heart: Lions Serving the World One Person at a Time” is a book by Past International Director Robert Littlefield that relays how service to those in need transforms lives and gives individuals a sense of purpose. The designation “from the heart” was carefully chosen because it identifies a place of origin.
Using stories from the heart to relay how service to those in need transforms lives and creates a greater appreciation for the role that helping others can have on an individual’s sense of purpose. These stories detail Lions Clubs International and its impact on the world over the past one hundred years.
Celebrate Lions Clubs International Foundation’s (LCIF’s) 50th anniversary by ordering your copy; a portion of the proceeds will benefit LCIF.
Be sure to join us on Monday, July 2, 2018, at PID Littlefield’s campfire discussion at the 101st Lions Clubs International Convention in Las Vegas to learn more about the book and its stories. Immediately following the discussion, PID Littlefield will sign copies of his book in the Exhibit Hall. Don’t miss this unique opportunity!
About the Author
Robert S. Littlefield is Director of the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Formerly a Professor of Communication at North Dakota State University in Fargo, he has authored over 100 scholarly and
invited publications and several books. Littlefield began his service as a Fargo Lion in 1984 and has held leadership positions at the club, district, and global levels, including International Director from 2014—2016. A Progressive Melvin Jones Fellow and Second Century Ambassador, Littlefield was appointed to serve a three-year term as a Trustee for LCIF in 2016.
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!
Since its inception in 1990, LCIF’s SightFirst program has played a key role in reducing blindness, especially blindness due to cataract. The programs has provided support for more than…
Social mobilization is a form of advocacy that Lions do very well! And, it is an important part of Lions Clubs International Foundation’s (LCIF) partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine…
Every child should be vaccinated against measles and rubella, but progress on eliminating these diseases has stalled. Everyone should play a role in closing this gap – governments,…
“As citizens of the world, Lions respond to one need, one community, one life at a time. In the years, decades and centuries ahead, Lions will continue to…