What Lions Do: Fight Blindness and Preserve Sight

Comments Off on What Lions Do: Fight Blindness and Preserve Sight Written on March 11th, 2012 by
Categories: Eyeglasses, Lions, Sight


Helen Keller

Helen Keller

This is the first in a series of articles explaining what Lions do for their communities. One common central goal for all Lions worldwide is preventing blindness and preserving sight.

In 1925, Helen Keller stood before the annual convention of the nascent International Association of Lions Clubs and spoke of her work with the American Foundation for the Blind, ending her talk with her now-famous challenge to us:

“The opportunity I bring to you, Lions, is this: To foster and sponsor the work of the American Foundation for the Blind. 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 Lions, 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?”

The Lions rallied to the cause and have taken up arms at every battlefront in the fight. From providing vision care and eyeglasses to those in need, to sponsoring vision screening clinics, to funding research and providing services and equipment to those with low vision, and even raising awareness about the causes of preventable blindness, like diabetes. Lions everywhere and through the years have committed themselves to preventing preventable blindness and helping the visually challenged lead healthy, productive lives.

To do this, we come back to our communities regularly, to ask for their support in these varied efforts. Sometimes, it may seem that we come back again and again for the same cause. A closer look at each project, however, reveals that we are asking for your support of many different sight-related causes, each of them vitally important to the fight.

“Spaghetti for Sight” = Eyeglasses for the Needy

Spaghetti BoyFor example, this weekend, the Southtown Lions asked for your participation in our first “Spaghetti for Sight” fundraiser that will help us assist local schoolchildren whose families can’t otherwise afford to provide them with the eyeglasses — and therefore, the sight — that they need to succeed in school, and in life. Thanks to your support, we will be able to purchase eyeglasses for up to 12 students. We will be back with additional “Spaghetti for Sight” benefits in the future because surely more than 12 students in our local schools need this service desperately. Each “Spaghetti for Sight” will support the cause of preserving sight by providing eyeglasses.

Stride for Sight“Stride for Sight” = Research, Treatment & Services

Now, we are asking for community support for our “Stride for Sight” Art Show and Fundraiser on March 24th at the Friendly Spot.

“Stride for Sight” is a joint project of all the clubs in the 22 counties centered around San Antonio — our Lions Club “District.” These 60+ clubs combine resources to support the “Lions Sight Research Center” and the “Lions Low Vision Center of Texas,” both located at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio. “Stride for Sight” also supports the district’s “Mobile Eye Screening Unit,” a specially equipped bus that rolls out to schools, senior centers, shopping malls, health fairs and other public venues to provide free vision screening services to underserved communities. Many of the patients that we screen first learn of their potential risk of blindness or other vision problems in our Mobile Eye Screening Unit. They are offered assistance and counsel as we refer them for medical followup.

Texas Eyeglass Recycling Center

In Texas, as in most other areas of the country and the world, Lions collect used eyeglasses that are no longer needed. We send these off to regional distribution facilities, where they are cleaned, sorted, graded by prescription and bundled together to be sent on vision clinic “missions” in Texas and around the world.

Working with an eye doctor, or team of doctors, a group of Lions will visit an area where eyeglasses are needed, and hard to come by. The doctor(s) examine the patients and write up prescriptions. The Lions are trained to match those prescriptions as closely as they can from the available stock of glasses. Many of those receiving these glasses are getting their first pair, sometimes the only pair they will ever have. These missions usually last three to five days and can distribute several hundred pairs of eyeglasses.

Other Services and Organizations Provide Ancillary Support

Lions also volunteer for and help fund other sight-related services and the organizations that provide them, such as:

  • Recording books & newspapers for the blind and visually impaired
  • Training and placing guide dogs and other service animals
  • Schools for the blind and visually impaired
  • Workshops and jobs for the blind and visually impaired
  • Scholarships for the blind and visually impaired, and those training to serve them

The list goes on. And this is just our fight against blindness. Lions are also involved in their communities in countless other ways. We support the deaf and hearing impaired, too. We are actively involved in the lives of our youth, sponsoring contests and scholarships, encouraging civic responsibility, drug-free living, international understanding and the development of leadership skills. We distribute food to the hungry and disaster relief to victims of natural disasters. More information about these and many other Lions service efforts at the Lions Clubs International blog, and in future articles posted here.