The Special Olympics World Winter Games in Idaho in February posted impressive numbers: 2,500 athletes from 95 nations competed and 10,000 visitors descended on Boise. But Lions in Idaho are proud of an entirely different set of figures: 1,100 athletes received vision screenings and 448 went home with prescription eye glasses and sports glasses. That level of screening took a whole lot of service: 200 Lions logged 1,600 volunteer hours. Screenings took place for five hours a day for six days, meaning the Lions of Idaho provided the most support ever for a Special Olympics event. “We set the bar very high and I have to attribute this to the wonderful volunteers here in this area,” Curt Kelley, MD 39 volunteer coordinator for Opening Eyes, wrote in an e-mail to LCI. All the numbers can obscure the personal stories–how lives were improved and enriched thanks to better vision. Some of the improvements were dramatic. One U.S. athlete was referred for a cornea transplant, which was paid for by the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation. A figure skater from Taiwan was saved from blindness when glaucoma was uncovered during a screening. The screenings at the games were part of the Lions Clubs International- Special Olympic Opening Eyes program. LCIF has provided more than $10 million in grants for Opening Eyes, and more than 100,000 athletes have been screened. The winter games also deepened the ties between Lions and Special Olympics: a Special Olympics Lions Club was formed in Idaho and another in California. The new Lions in Idaho will work closely with Special Olympics in Idaho in raising funds, helping with athlete training and generally assisting those with intellectual disabilities. The clinical director at the games was Lion Dr. Jack Zarybnisky, who secured the screening equipment and recruited more than 60 eye doctors and opticians, many of them Lions, to assist on the screenings. Volunteers came from as far as Lebanon, Britain and Kenya. Lions in Idaho began preparing for the games in 2007. Leos from Parma and Centennial Job Corps in Nampa also volunteered. Al Brandel, 2008-09 international president, was on hand for the festivities as were U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden and CEOs from major corporations.
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