The International Association of Lions Clubs began as the dream of Chicago businessman Melvin Jones. He believed that local business clubs should expand their horizons from purely professional concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at large. Jones' group, the Business Circle of Chicago, agreed. After contacting similar groups around the United States, an organizational meeting was held on June 7, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The new group took the name of one of the invited groups, the "Association of Lions Clubs," and a national convention was held in Dallas, Texas, USA in October of that year. A constitution, by-laws, objects and code of ethics were approved.
Among the objects adopted in those early years was one that read, "No club shall hold out the financial betterment of its members as its object." This call for unselfish service to others remains one of the association's main tenets. Just three years after its formation, the association became international when the first club in Canada was established in 1920. Major international expansion continued as clubs were established, particularly throughout Europe, Asia and Africa during the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1925, Helen Keller addressed the Lions international convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, USA. She challenged Lions to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness." From this time, Lions clubs have been actively involved in service to the blind and visually impaired. Broadening its international role, Lions Clubs International helped the United Nations form the Non-Governmental Organizations sections in 1945 and continues to hold consultative status with the U.N.
In 1990, Lions launched its most aggressive sight preservation effort, SightFirst. The US$202 million program strives to rid the world of preventable and reversible blindness by supporting desperately needed health care services. Lions have launched Campaign SightFirst II to raise at least US$150 million to continue and expand the extraordinary work of SightFirst.
In addition to sight programs, Lions Clubs International is committed to providing services for youth. Lions clubs also work to improve the environment, build homes for the disabled, support diabetes education, conduct hearing programs and, through their foundation, provide disaster relief around the world. Lions have launched Campaign SightFirst II to raise at least US$150 million to continue and expand the extraordinary work of SightFirst.
Lions Clubs International has grown to include 1.3 million men and women in approximately 45,000 clubs located in 202 countries and geographic areas.
Our Motivator HELLER KELLER(1880-1968)
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, 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, Keller attended the Lions Clubs International Convention and challenged Lions to become “KNIGHTS OF THE BLIND IN THE CRUSADE AGAINST DARKNESS.” The Lions accepted Keller’s challenge and our work ever since has included sight programs aimed at preventable blindness.
Helen Keller Day In 1971, the Board of Directors of Lions Clubs International declared that June 1 would be remembered as Helen Keller Day. Lions around the world implement sight related service projects on Helen Keller Day.