As part of the 2013 Special Olympics Asia Pacific Regional Games in Newcastle, Australia, Special Olympics Asia Pacific held a regional Health Symposium, which brought together health and development experts from Australia and the region. The goal of the Symposium was to highlight the significant health disparities experienced by children and adults with intellectual disabilities, and to emphasize the urgent need for increased action and support to ensure the quality health and well-being of this most marginalized population.
I had the honor of speaking at this event — discussing the history of the LCIF/Special Olympics partnership, during which Lions have provided vision screenings for more than 350,000 athletes in over 70 nations. With the help from global partners, Lions have also provided prescription eyeglasses to more than 110,000 athletes.
In July, LCIF pledged $7.8 million to Special Olympics to strengthen our partnership, creating more leadership opportunities for athletes, increasing health opportunities and reaching more young people through inclusive sports and advocacy programs.
I had so much fun at the games! Above is a photo of part of the opening ceremonies. I’m looking forward to a long-lasting partnership that helps serve these talented athletes.
René Henderson and Liz Lamach of Concord, Calif., have a reason to smile during a difficult time. An inclusive playground for children of all abilities built in honor of her deceased son, Matteo, will be a float design in the 125th Annual Tournament of Roses Parade.
“Since Matteo’s passing, it’s been kind of bleak and dark,” Lamach said of her son who passed away in 2011. “This is a ray light. It kind of opened a door that has been closed for a while.”
Matteo was blind and suffered from cerebral palsy. He was the inspiration for a “Matteo’s Dream,” a city playground built for disabled children in 2007.
Lamach wanted a playground where Matteo could play shoulder to shoulder with other children. She enlisted design firm Leather & Associates and local Lions clubs to make the dream a reality.
“I insisted on rubber surfaces, which was unheard of because most designs had gravel or sand,” said Lamach of her quest to design a practical park. “I was warned of the cost and that it would delay the opening. But I told them I would rather wait a year and be able to do it right.”
The playground made headlines in the Bay area for being one of the first inclusive parks in the region and also because the community built it in eight days.
“This would not have happened without the Lions,” said Lamach. “There would be no Matteo’s Dream without the Lions club.”
Lions raised $750,000 to help build the park.
More than 3,000 volunteers erected the 12,000 square-foot playground. Many of the volunteers were members of the 45 Lions clubs in the region.
“It was like a barn raising, when the whole community would come together to help a neighbor build a barn,” said Concord Director of Parks and Recreation Joan Carrico. “It is very rare in that you get to see something like that in your career. It was just very special.”
Lions Clubs International President Barry Palmer has challenged Lions all over the world to dream big and take on projects that turn the impossible into possible. Lions felt Matteo’s Dream was a perfect fit for this year’s Tournament of Roses theme – Dreams Come True.
“It’s just an incredible honor,” said Henderson, who was laughing and crying at the same time when she found out about the float with Lamach. “I was touched more than I can say.”
Next week, the Lions Clubs will be hosting a maintenance and clean-up day for Matteo’s Dream. Lamach and Henderson will be there as both have joined the Concord Lions Club.
Both Lamach and Henderson will be traveling to Los Angeles a few days after Christmas. On December 30, they will join with other Lions Clubs to help decorate the float.
On Jan. 1, 2014, they will ride the float together wearing shirts with Matteo’s photo on it.
Help spread the word about Lions’ participation in the 2014 New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. We’re asking for all Lions around the world to share the video above with at least one friend outside their club through email, Facebook or Twitter with the hashtags #MatteosDream and #RoseParade.
In the special December photo edition of LION Magazine, we honor the Knights of the Blind and highlight some of the great work Lions are doing around the world for sight. Read the ways visually impaired people’s lives have changed (Knight Lights) thanks to Lions and learn about just a few of the creative and meaningful service projects (Serving Day and Knight) Lions are doing. Enjoy moving photos and an illustration (Planet Earth Lions Club) of Lions’ accomplishments for sight.
In the digital LION, find exclusive videos about Lions helping visually impaired people to fish, surf, learn in school and more.
Visit the LION Magazine page to contact editors, view past issues and listen to the audio version of the magazine.
This month, Lions kick off the Relieving the Hunger Global Service Action Campaign. Through food drives, soup kitchens, holiday baskets and other feeding projects, Lions everywhere join together to feed their hungry neighbors. The video above shows the different ways in which Lions provide food for those in need, whether feeding victims of a disaster, giving homeless people a hot meal on a cold day, or supporting school breakfast programs.
How is your club participating in the Relieving the Hunger campaign?
Check out how Lions around the world are making headlines by serving their communities.
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