THE LIONS CHANGED MY LIFE Angling for Inspiration Fifteen years ago Marlene Cook went to an ophthalmologist thinking she needed new glasses. When she found out she had macular degeneration, she thought her career as an entertainment journalist would soon be over. Once the initial shock and fear subsided, Cook realized that limited sight didn’t mean the loss of the life she loved. And after attending the 31st annual North Carolina Lions VIP Fishing Tournament for the blind and visually impaired last year, Cook received an unexpected— and very welcomed—dose of inspiration and reassurance from the 500 participants happily casting their lines over the three-day event. Q&A: Marlene Cook LION Magazine: Why did you think your career would be over when you received your diagnosis? Marlene Cook: All I could think of was that I was going to be blind. As a journalist, I attended concerts, reviewed theater and interviewed celebrities. I wasn’t sure what the future held. I went home and cried for hours, but then I pulled myself together and thought, if others can do it, so can I. I read with a magnifying glass and use a large computer font, but I’m still doing it all! LM: Did you have any experience with fishing? MC: I had never fished before! I had no idea what to expect when I got to the Outer Banks. I was awestruck when I got there and saw all of the people participating. I was lucky to have a Leo volunteer who helped me catch 25 fish. It was exciting to feel a fish tug on the line and pull it up! My helper baited the hooks, so I didn’t have to touch a worm. That was a good thing. LM: What did you enjoy most about this event? MC: I realized it was not really just about the fishing. I heard amazing stories and was so impressed with everyone’s attitudes. One blind woman there still lives on the farm she grew up on—alone. She loves to decorate her home with bright colors. She said, “I have great vision; I just have crappy eyesight.” When the man who won the trophy for catching the most fish was asked if he resented being blind he said, “No, if I weren’t blind I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.” LM: How did this experience impact your life? MC: Currently, I have some vision in my left eye. But attending the tournament has given me new hope. I don’t fear the possibility of going blind as I did before. I know that life will go on, and that blind folks can do anything the sighted can. They just do it a little differently. Marlene Cook proudly shows off her catch along with Greenwood Lion Joe Pitts. The tournament is sponsored by the First Flight, Nags Head, Manteo, Wanchese, Columbia, Currituck, Lower Currituck and Plymouth Lions clubs in District 31 J. Lions, has your club heard from a recipient of your service or charity? Tell us about the feedback you’ve received from those whose lives you’ve changed for the better. Email a brief description to email@example.com. Please include “Thank You” in the subject line.
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