In 1925, as an ambassador for the newly formed American Foundation for the Blind, Helen Keller addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio.
“Try to imagine how you would feel if you were suddenly stricken blind today,” Keller asked Lions members packed into the convention hall. “Picture yourself stumbling and groping at noonday as in the night; your work, your independence gone.”
Keller knew exactly what this was like. Blind and deaf since the age of 19 months, she had once lived in virtual isolation, unable to effectively communicate. Then, a teacher from the Perkins School for the Blind named Anne Sullivan came to live and work with Keller and taught her to connect with the world through sign language. Keller eventually learned to read and write, earned a bachelor’s degree and learned how to speak.
Most Lions at the time were familiar with her well-publicized story. Some Lions in the audience had already been involved with service projects to the blind. But witnessing Keller share her heart and soul for the plight of the blind brought the reality of being visually impaired crashing home for everyone present. The Lions and their guests were captivated.
Keller saved her most stirring words for the end of her speech, hoping that the Lions would partner with the American Foundation for the Blind and lend their support as an organization to those who had lost their sight.
“Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness; no little deaf, blind child untaught; no blind man or woman unaided? I appeal to you Lion, you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind. Will you not constitute yourselves knights of the blind in this crusade against darkness?”
She had no idea just how far the association would take her challenge.
Before the convention was over, the association unreservedly dedicated itself to making Keller’s dream a reality. Lions would become Keller’s Knights of the Blind.
Since 1925, hundreds of millions of lives have been changed through the vision-related work of Lions around the world, and today the association is as dedicated as ever to hastening the day when no one should suffer unnecessarily from vision problems. Through eye centers and hospitals, medicines and surgeries, eye glasses and eye banks, Lions are working to end preventable blindness and aid the visually impaired.
Keller’s challenge and her dream live on.
Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories.
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) offers a variety of funding options to support various stages for disaster relief operations, including Disaster Preparedness, Emergency, Community Recovery and Major Catastrophe Grants.
For districts impacted by a natural disaster that has affected at least 100 people, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis, Emergency Grants provide up to US$10,000. Lions district governors may apply for disaster relief funds to help meet immediate needs such as food, water, clothing and medical supplies. LCIF typically awards more than US$2 million in Emergency Grant funding each year.
In February 2017, LCIF awarded 4 emergency grants totaling US$40,000. These grants are addressing immediate needs in:
Peru, District H-1
US$10,000 for flood relief
Brazil, District LB-4
US$10,000 for flood relief
Zambia, District 413
US$10,000 for flood relief
Massachusetts, USA, District 33-Y
US$10,000 for tornado relief
Please consider making a donation to LCIF’s disaster fund today.
We’re at the Special Olympics World Winter Games, meeting athletes from around the world! From March 14th until March 25, Austria is hosting the 2017 World Winter Games. 2,700 athletes from 107 nations will be participating in nine different sports including figure skating, speed skating, floor hockey and more.
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has been involved with Special Olympics International since the inception of their collaborative program, Opening Eyes, which promotes vision and eye health for Special Olympics athletes. People who are disabled are largely underserved when it comes to vision care. Since 2001, Opening Eyes has screened more than 370,000 Special Olympics athletes. More than 161,000 athletes have received prescription eyewear.
Funded by an LCIF Core 4 grant, Opening Eyes continues to screen athletes for visual impairments and eye health. Corrective and protective eyewear are provided to the athlete, if needed. In addition, athletes are taught how to take care of their eyes.
In 2014, Lions, Leos and Special Olympics kicked off “Mission: Inclusion” – a dynamic social tool that brings Leos and people with and without intellectual disabilities together to join together on the field of play. With Leos serving as global leaders in community service and advocacy, the match is one that brings added benefits to Leos and Special Olympics athletes alike.
In early March 2017, the Somers Leo Club (New York, USA) participated in a Mission: Inclusion floor hockey activity with the Special Olympics World Winter Games USA team. Here’s what they had to say about the experience:
Leo Brandon LaSpina:
“Through the Leos I have been privileged to work with Special Olympians in Track, Basketball and now Floor Hockey. I have met athletes which cover the entire spectrum of functionality and the one thing that I have learned is that each athlete always has a smile on their face, is determined. They always rise to the occasion and do not let their disability deter or define who they are.”
Leo Mia Klayman:
“The Leos Club and Special Olympics changed the way I think about people with developmental disabilities. My experience made me realize that these people with disabilities not only want to do the same things that we do, but that they are capable of doing so. They are still able to be apart of a sports team and compete against other people. Their disability does not have to define them.”
Leo Jon Riina:
“I especially enjoyed interacting with the athletes and listening to their stories about their amazing journey thus far as well as their upcoming trip to Austria. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for these kids and wish them the best of luck. So much about them surprised me and I will always remember the time I spent with them.”
The Next Steps for Past District Governors [WEBINAR]
As a Past District Governor, your knowledge, experience and leadership are all valuable assets that Lions will continue to rely upon well past your term as District Governor.
The “PDG” acronym can be thought of as “Please Don’t Go!” Although your term has ended, your continued leadership is going to be needed and appreciated in many different ways.
We will explore paths of continued Lion involvement a Past District Governor could embrace that are both personally satisfying and that further the mission and goals of LCI.
We will suggest possible continued leadership opportunities, such as:
The International Association of Lions Clubs was anything but international when formed in Chicago in 1917. At its inception, about two dozen clubs were scattered around the central United States in places such as Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas. Lions suspected, however, that their group would soon live up to its multinational name. Service and volunteerism are contagious, especially when combined with a bit of fun.
It didn’t take long. Just three years later, in 1920, Lions became truly international with the establishment of its first club outside U.S. borders in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Located across the river from Detroit, Michigan, Windsor was a bustling border town in 1920, benefitting from the region’s booming automotive industry. Detroit, birthplace of the moving automobile assembly line, had just formed its own Lions club earlier that year and word was quickly spreading about the association. Windsor’s volunteer-minded citizens were intrigued. Through Lions Clubs, they could serve their growing community and improve the lives of their neighbors.
Michigan District 11 Governor Anthony Menke was known as a dynamic force in area business circles, and the enthusiastic leader was eager to make the Canadian Lions club a reality. Under his guidance, the Detroit Lions sponsored the Windsor club, which soon sprang into action and began serving fellow Canadians with Lions’ fervor. The Windsor club would later make its mark by introducing Canadians to the white cane, a safety identification tool for the visually impaired.
After founding the Windsor club in Canada, Lions moved into China and Mexico. In 1926, the first Lions Club in China was established in Tianjin (formerly Tientsin). A year later, Mexico’s Nuevo Laredo Fundadores Club joined the association with the help of Lions across the border in neighboring Laredo, Texas.
Today, Lions are serving those in need through clubs in more than 200 countries and geographic areas. As the largest service organization in the world, Lions Clubs International goes wherever the Lion-hearted are found.
Explore the exciting history of Lions clubs with the complete series of Touchstone stories.
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