The Lorain Lions formed 90 years ago, and it didn’t take them long to find a mission.
“We were challenged by Hellen Keller in 1925,” Lions President Douglas Kayle said at a Wednesday-night open house held to highlight the Lions’ work. That challenge came “at the Lions’ international convention, which, at the time was held in Sandusky, Ohio, at Cedar Point. She challenged the Lions to become the ‘knights of the blind.’ ”
While the Lions, who are this year’s Lorain International Festival spotlight organization, also take up issues such as hearing and various community projects, “primarily we focus on vision and vision problems,” Kayle said.
Some of the Lions’ major projects include providing eye exams and eyeglasses for underprivileged children in the Lorain City Schools.
The Lions estimate that they’ve spent more than $220,000 on eye exams and eyeglasses since 1995.
“If a child can’t see well enough, then they can’t read. And if they can’t read, then they can’t learn,” Kayle said. “Then they become disruptive in class, and their test scores aren’t very good.
“We hope that through giving them their eye exams and eyeglasses, that we can improve their reading, learning and attention spans, and if that all comes to play, then we can see, hopefully that their test scores go up and graduation rates go up, and we get a better community completely.”
Fundraisers through the years have included flower sales, music concerts, a booth selling hot dogs and cotton candy at International Festival, bringing the circus to town and holiday fruit cake sales. Most recently the Lions have hosted popular pancake breakfasts the Sundays prior to May and November elections.
The Lions are now in the process of raising $150,000 to outfit the vision clinic at the new Lorain County Health and Dentistry on Broadway in Lorain.
While vision issues are a major focus of the Lions, they’re not the only focus, Kayle said, citing projects the group has done, such as rehabbing the old Lakeview Park bathhouse.
“We just try and make our community that much better,” he said.