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Champions

Champions Lions clubs focus on projects to serve Special Olympics athletes, helping them to live healthy, successful lives.

Champions Lions clubs focus on projects to serve Special Olympics athletes, helping them to live healthy, successful lives.

Champions

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Touchstone Story #73

Only a few weeks before Kevin Sessions was to compete in a basketball tournament at the summer 2014 Special Olympics USA Games, the 19-year-old athlete hit a slump. His dad and coach Warren Sessions couldn’t understand what the trouble was—until Kevin mentioned that everything seemed blurry.

As soon as father and son reached the Games, Warren took Kevin to the Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes clinic to have his eyes checked. He was diagnosed with nearsightedness and spots behind his eyes. To make sure he was ready to play in a big basketball game the next day, the clinic volunteers rushed to get Sessions the eyewear he needed in only 20 minutes. What a difference the glasses made. Sessions scored 12 points in the game, and his team went on to win the gold medal.

Special Olympics gives thousands of children and adults with intellectual disabilities the chance to shine through athletic training and competition—building community, confidence, fitness and courage in the process. But like Sessions, many athletes suffer unnecessarily from undiagnosed vision issues.

Special Olympics first established an eye health services program for participating athletes in 1991. A decade later, Lions Clubs International Foundation gave its first grant to the Opening Eyes program. The two organizations have had a special partnership ever since, providing free vision screening to more than 350,000 participants, offering free prescription eyeglasses and sports goggles to more than 170,000 Special Olympic athletes, and distributing more than 100,000 free sunglasses.

The Lions Clubs International Foundation donates approximately US$1 million each year to the cause. Since the partnership began, more than 20,000 Lions volunteers from more than 80 countries have staffed the state, regional, national and international Special Olympics Games.

The partnership between Special Olympics and Lions almost seems inevitable. In 1968, the first Special Olympics Games were held at Chicago’s Soldier Field stadium, less than three miles from Lions headquarters, at the time in downtown Chicago.

In 2010, Lions and the Special Olympics created Champions Lions Clubs, a new designation for Lions clubs that focus specifically on Special Olympics. These clubs go beyond supporting the Opening Eyes program. They help Special Olympic athletes with scholarships, training, donations, health programs, hands-on support and promotion of the Games.

At the 2013 Lions Clubs International Convention, Lions expanded its Special Olympics partnership with an initiative called “Mission: Inclusion,” which aims for full acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities through health programs, outreach, leadership and advocacy opportunities. Thanks to its longstanding partnership with the Special Olympics, Lions have helped the world to see that every person has the talent and passion to be a champion.

Champions Lions clubs focus on projects to serve Special Olympics athletes, helping them to live healthy, successful lives.

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