Born in Tuscumbia, Alabama, USA, in 1880, Helen Keller developed a fever at 18 months of age that left her blind and deaf.
With the help of an exceptional teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan of the Perkins School for the Blind, Helen Keller learned sign language and braille. A few years later, she learned to speak. As an adult she became a tireless advocate for people with disabilities. In 1925, she attended the Lions Clubs International Convention and challenged Lions to become “Knights of the Blind in the crusade against darkness.”
The Lions accepted her challenge and our work ever since have included sight programs aimed at preventable blindness.
In 1971, the Board of Directors of Lions Clubs International declared that June 1st would be remembered as Helen Keller Day. Lions around the world implement sight-related service projects on Helen Keller Day such as:
- Children’s Eye Photo screening detects amblyopia (lazy eye), the leading cause of blindness in one eye among persons less than 20 years of age.
- Education for the Blind includes the Hadley School for the Blind that provides free distance education for 10,000 students in 100 countries who are blind or visually impaired, as well as for their families.
- Eyeglass Recycling occurs through 17 official Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centers. May is Lions Recycle for Sight Month.
- Helen Keller Day is June 1. Around the world, Lions implement sight-related service projects on this day.
- Lions Eye Banks, established in 10 countries, provide eye tissue for cornea transplants and research. Lions Eye Bank Week is the first full week in December.
- Low Vision Projects can include eye exams, transportation assistance, large-print reading materials, rehabilitation/vocational training, or guide dogs.
- Recreational Camps for the Visually Impaired often receive support from Lions clubs. Lions may provide support to camps that are customized to meet the needs of children and adults who are blind or visually impaired.
- SightFirst is the Lions global initiative to prevent blindness. Campaign SightFirst II aims to fund expansion of the initiative.
- Special Olympics Opening Eyes Program provides free vision screenings, eyeglasses, and sports goggles to Special Olympics athletes.
- Support Services for Persons who are Blind or Visually Impaired include providing Braille signage in public buildings; donating Braille and large-print books to libraries; and providing scholarships for visually impaired students.
- Vision Screenings are often organized in cooperation with local eye care professionals.
- White Cane Safety Day (October 15) is an opportunity for Lions to raise awareness of the use of the long white cane used by people who are blind or visually impaired.
- World Sight Day, the second Thursday in October, provides Lions with an opportunity to educate the community about blindness prevention.If you would like more information on becoming a lion please visit www.lionsclubs.org, www.sleepingladylions.org, www.eagleriverlions.com. The Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions, Bear Mountain Leo and Eagle River Lions are all on Facebook. Join our pages and see what we do in the community to make it a better place to live.
Knights Of The Blind
by Lion Karen Burns, District Governor