A visually-impaired man and woman stand in the hallway at Lions Vision Center at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute.

Help and Hope are Just a Phone Call Away

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Will Jackson was only 18 years old when he was diagnosed with glaucoma. He came to terms with his poor vision, and for more than 30 years he has lived a relatively ordinary life. He has two sons and a fiancé, loves to cook and has mastered using public transportation to travel around Baltimore.

But recently,  Jackson found it increasingly difficult to do everyday activities such as reading the newspaper, reviewing bills and writing checks. When his ophthalmologist recommended he seek low-vision rehabilitation services at the Lions Vision Center within the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, Jackson didn’t think there would be much they could do for him. He had adapted to living with glaucoma so well that he had never sought assistance outside of his eye doctor. Nevertheless, he made an appointment to see a low-vision specialist.

A few days later, Jackson received a phone call from Past District Governor Ken Chew. He called on behalf of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Network (LOVRNET), an initiative of the Lions of Multiple District (MD) 22 and a partner of the Lions Vision Center. Lions LOVRNET is a model for a new community-based healthcare program to address the current shortage of low-vision rehabilitation services in Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The program creates a single referral resource for both eye care providers and patients and coordinates care by matching patients to appropriate trained service providers in their area.

The phone screening interview with Chew took about an hour. Jackson learned about tasks that he could get help with and tools that were available to him. Special cameras, magnifying glasses and even a talking watch could help him remain self-sufficient. With the help of adaptive tools from the Lions Vision Center, Jackson hopes to one day be able to watch a football game. “The experience has been personal. I get to talk to people and laugh with them,” he explains. “It’s more than just filling out forms at a doctor’s office. I feel like a person, not a number.”

The Lions of MD 22 received a US$567,647 SightFirst grant to establish the Lions LOVRNET. In addition to developing a single referral resource, Lions LOVRNET also trains and supports local optometrists, ophthalmologists and other eye care providers so they can offer high quality and effective low-vision rehabilitation services as part of their practices.

The LOVRNET project was inspired by a previous collaboration between MD 22 and Johns Hopkins to develop a public education program on low vision and blindness. That effort, supported by an LCIF US$200,000 Core 4 grant, mobilized local Lions to educate the community on eye health and low-vision rehabilitation.

The unexpected value for Lions, according to Chew, is connecting to people on the other end of the line. “I have been a Lion for almost 25 years. My club is great at raising money and writing checks—and that’s important. But connecting with people is important, too,” says Chew. “Seeing a patient’s journey is a reminder of the impact we’re having. We have the potential to do a lot of good.”

Jackson’s eyesight may be impaired, but his vision of living a self-reliant life is thriving. With Lions and LCIF on his side, his future is bright. To find out how your district or multiple district can help address the need for low-vision services in your area, visit lcif.org. To learn more about Lions LOVRNET, visit lovrnet.org.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of LION Magazine.

Senior Citizens Dancing at Prom

Leos Invite Seniors to Prom

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April is Leo Club Awareness Month! To celebrate and recognize Leo clubs, the Lions Blog will feature stories about Leo service projects around the world. Today’s story was written by Leo Club Program Advisory Panelist, Kyle Boutilier.

In the past month, my home club, the Kwantlen Park Leo Club, has had the opportunity to take part in some outstanding service projects. The Kwantlen Park Leo Club is based at Kwantlen Park Secondary School in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. The newly created Surrey Central Lions Club sponsors them. On March 2nd, my Leo club celebrated its 5th birthday and we look forward to the next five years and beyond!

Senior Citizens Seated at Prom

This February, the Leos continued with their annual senior citizens prom on February 13th, 2016. This is the second year running of this project and the dance was met with enthusiasm and success. The seniors (55+) of Surrey boogied the night away and enjoyed a delicious meal! Approximately 80 people attended and enjoyed the dancing, prizes and of course food. A local business provided the music and the City of Surrey co-sponsored the event with the KP Leos! The planning of the project began in January and posters and decorations were hand made by the members of the Kwantlen Park Leos Club. The many hours of making posters, planning, and promoting the dance was well worth it as the seniors gave rave reviews. This project helped demonstrate to the seniors that young people are very passionate and care about their elders.

Other Leo Clubs can organize a similar project in their community by seeking the support of local businesses and the municipal government. A good mix of passion, hard work, and enthusiasm can make this project successful in any community.

The Leo Club Program gives young people the opportunity to serve their communities, develop leadership skills, make new friends and have fun! Learn more about the Leo Club Program and find out how to start a Leo club in your community.   

Young Boy Brushing Teeth

Leos Teach Local Children About Dental Hygiene

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April is Leo Club Awareness Month! To celebrate and recognize Leo clubs, the Lions Blog will feature stories about Leo service projects around the world. Today’s story comes from the Bali Shanti Leo Club in Indonesia. This Omega Leo club, sponsored by the Bali Surya Host Lions Club, will celebrate its 3 year anniversary next month.

In December 2015, the Bali Shanti Leo Club held an event called “Action Day with Leo.” On this special day, Leos participated in several service activities including a dental hygiene program for children.  In the morning, Leos taught 168 primary school students about proper dental hygiene. Together with the students, Leos practiced brushing their teeth. Leos also provided the students with their own toothbrushes, toothpaste, and milk. “They were really excited with this activity because this is the first time they learned how to brush teeth properly,” said a Leo volunteer.

Leos demonstrate proper dental hygiene

Through activities like this, Leo clubs bring hope and laughter to children in need around the globe. Leo clubs that plan and implement projects to enrich the lives of children are eligible to receive a Spotlight on Children banner patch. Learn more about Spotlight on Children on LCI’s website.


LCIF Awards 7 Disaster Relief and Emergency Grants, March 2016

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When natural disasters strike, Lions are there to offer help and support. In times of need, Lions rely on disaster relief grants and funds from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF). Emergency grants provide up to US$10,000 for districts impacted by a natural disaster that has affected at least 100 people, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis.

In March 2016, LCIF awarded 7 emergency and disaster relief grants totaling US$70,000. These grants are addressing immediate needs in:

Ecuador, District G 2
$10,000 for flood relief

Louisiana, USA, District 8 L
$10,000 for flood relief

Louisiana, USA, District 8 I
$10,000 for flood relief

Brazil, District LC 2
$10,000 for flood relief

Louisiana, USA, District 8 O
$10,000 for flood relief

Brazil, District LC 5
$10,000 for flood relief

Mississippi, USA, District 30 M
$10,000 for flood reliefA woman wearing her yellow Lions vest holds an infant boy and relief materials


VOPA and U.S. Lions: Protect Your Club

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Lions organize service activities throughout the U.S. – from park cleanups to 5K races, vision screenings to clothing drives, Lions clubs are vital to their community. As with any event open to family, friends and the public, it’s important to consider the safety of those attending. If someone gets hurt while collecting trash on the beach or carrying boxes to the local food bank, your club may held legally responsible for resulting damages, injuries or legal claims. This is a common occurrence that has forced many clubs to dissolve or file bankruptcy as a result.

With current legislation, your club is at risk of losing its ability to help others.

What Is the Volunteer Organization Protection Act (VOPA)?

If signed into law, the VOPA bill will provide enhanced protection to nonprofit organizations in the United States for harm caused by an individual volunteer in the performance of their service. This would protect U.S. Lions clubs from being drawn into lawsuits should an accident occur during a Lions club service activity or event.

With VOPA protecting your club, you can focus your resources on the needs of your community.

How to Support the VOPA

Contact your Member of Congress! The more representatives co-sponsor the VOPA, the higher the chances of the bill being signed into law and Lions clubs receiving the protection they deserve!

Write, call or visit your U.S. Senator or House Representatives, and urge him or her to support this important bill.

Resources for Supporting the VOPA

Questions? Contact GovermentRelations@lionsclubs.org.


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