When Hellen Keller addressed LCI's international convention in 1925, Lions began a century-long journey as "Knights of the Blind." Lions have impacted hundreds of millions of lives through vision-related work like providing medicines, surgeries, eyeglasses, and outfitting hospitals and eye banks.
Since the 1930s, Lions have been bringing the world into focus for millions of people by distributing gently used eyeglasses in developing nations. Known today as Recycle for Sight, Lions collect about 30 million pairs of glasses each year as part of the international program.
In 1962, the Lowell Lions Club in Massachusetts staffed concession booths at a fashion show to raise money to screen children for amblyopia. Lions around the world have continued that tradition by providing fast and simple vision screenings to help identify treatable vision problems.
Whether providing free vision screenings to children, distributing school lunches or teaching young people the skills they need to succeed as adults, Lions make improving the lives of these vulnerable members of our community a top priority. Today, Lions have helped millions of children around the world suffering from poverty, homelessness, hunger, abuse, neglect, disease and disabilities.
Since 1984, Lions have helped promote school-based curriculum designed to help youth develop life skills. Today, Lions Quest has helped more than 13 million students in 85 countries make responsible decisions, set goals, develop healthy relationships, resist peer pressure and engage in community service.
Close to a billion people go to bed hungry every night, and poor nutrition contributes to the death of more than 3 million children every year. Lions strive to end hunger in many ways, including volunteering at local food pantries, distributing food during the holidays and organizing soup kitchens for the homeless.
Since 1937, when Lions in Hawaii, USA helped safely dispose of 92 truckloads of waste, Lions have been working tirelessly to preserve our environment. From local recycling projects to providing clean drinking water, Lions everywhere are protecting our planet through environmental service projects in their communities.
On June 9, 1972, a storm in South Dakota triggered a flash flood that claimed the lives of 238 people and injured thousands more. Lions worked quickly alongside the Lions Clubs International Foundation to assist the victims. Lions have a long tradition of being among the first to offer aid and assistance following disasters like Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the earthquake in Chengdu, China and Hurricane Katrina in the United States.
Lions are committed to serving more people in more ways, all around the world. To do so, we have launched a strategic plan called LCI Forward, which will help Lions triple our service impact by serving 200 million people per year by 2021. LCI Forward also includes an updated global service framework that will expand how Lions serve to meet the emerging needs of a changing world.
Theodore Simmang, an American lawyer in Tianjin, China, launched the first Lions club outside North America with the help of businessmen from China, Europe, the US and Japan. Lions Clubs is currently one of a small number of service club organizations authorized by the Chinese government to operate in China.
During Lions’ 1935 international convention in Mexico City, Mexico, honorary Lion Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly nonstop from Los Angeles to Mexico City, where she congratulated Lions on doing their “full share toward the furtherance of the spirt of Lionism and international relationships."
Lions Clubs International Foundation was founded In 1968 to address global causes by helping Lions and their partners serve their communities and the world. Today, LCIF has awarded nearly US$1 billion in grants to support Lions’ humanitarian projects around the world, including bringing fresh water to residents of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.
In 1984, the Benton Bay Athletic Lions Club was chartered in Alaska, USA, to support local college and youth sports. This began the tradition of specialty Lions clubs bringing together Lions with common interests and backgrounds to meet special needs in their communities. Today specialty clubs range from preschool education to the environment, cyber clubs, veterans clubs, and more.
The 21st century has changed the world and Lions Clubs International forever. LCI is expanding its impact with LCI Forward, a new strategic initiative that includes heavy investment in digital technologies, like social media and mobile applications, that will revolutionize how Lions serve and connect with each other and their communities.
In response to social problems created by World War I and rapid industrialization, in 1917 a Chicago businessman named Melvin Jones invited business clubs from around the USA to form the "Association of Lions Clubs," a group dedicated to service and community.
The first Lions Clubs convention was held October 8th, 1917 in Dallas, Texas, where Melvin Jones was elected secretary general. Today, LCI's International Convention continues to draw Lions from around the world to share in the fellowship of service.
Dr. William Woods was elected Lions Clubs International's first international president at its 1917 convention. In 2016, Lions celebrated the election of their first female vice president, Gudrun Yngvadottir.
The first edition of Lions Clubs Magazine was published in November 1918. The magazine—later known as LION Magazine— would go on to achieve worldwide distribution in more than 20 languages. By January 2018, all 33 international editions of LION will launch a digital magazine.
During the 1925 International Convention, Helen Keller challenged Lions to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness." Lions enthusiastically dedicated themselves to what would become a signature cause for our first 100 years of service.
In 1930, Lion George Bonham creates a white cane with a wide red band to aid the visually impaired after witnessing a blind man having trouble crossing the street. Since then, the white cane has become a symbol of independence to those who use it to guide their way.
The Detroit Uptown Lions Club established a guide dog training school. Known today as Leader Dogs for the Blind, the school has graduated more than 14,500 guide dogs since 1939 and helped popularize the idea of service dogs.
Lions will celebrate our first century of life-changing service in 2017. Lions Clubs International is rolling out LCI Forward to help launch our second century of service, including a new global service initiative.