NORWAY Snug as a Snow Boot: Blind Skiers, Norwegians and Lions How important is skiing in Norway? Cross-country skiing is the national sport. The words ski and slalom are Norwegian in origin. Norwegians proudly boast, “Nnordmenn er født med ski på beina!” (Norwegians are born with skis on their legs!) So it’s not a surprise that Norwegians are credited with popularizing skiing and cross-country skiing for the blind. The genesis for the growth of skiing for the blind was the Ridderrennet, first held in Norway in 1964 for 57 blind skiers. Now the world’s largest winter sports week for those with disabilities, the Riddernnet last year hosted 500 disabled skiers including many without sight. The participants ski cross-country and downhill, shoot rifles during a biathlon and even race on snowboards. Norwegian Lions were integral to the early success of the Ridderrennet and today are the largest private sponsor of the event. The Lions’ Red Feather Campaign in the 1960s raised funds for the Beitostølen Healthsports Center, where the events are held. Last year 161 Lions clubs in Norway contributed 520,000 kroner (US$77,000) for the competition. Lions on skis volunteer as well. They accompany the participants during the races, in front for guidance during the cross-country and behind on the downhills. The Ridderrennet was begun by Erling Stordahl, a blind musician. He happened upon the joy of skiing after a stream of military vehicles left deep tracks in the snow, and he discovered he could ski without fear of a collision. “I felt I had regained my eyesight,” he later wrote. Some as young as 15, participants come from more than a dozen nations including the United States, Canada and Vietnam. “The Ridderweek has completely changed my life—what I do, how I do things,” Jim Denton, a blind, 56-year-old, fourtime Winter Paralympics athlete from England told Family Ski News. “I started skiing here back in 1981 and thought, ‘It doesn’t get any better than this.’” Denton is careful to choose Norwegians as guides even for his Paralympics events. “I think a part of me must be Norwegian,” he adds. INDIA Lions in India Care for Outcasts Kohima Lions in India built a home for those with leprosy in 1983. As they often do, club members recently visited the home to give the residents meat, potatoes and sweets. Fourteen people with leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, and family members live at the facility. One of the elderly residents hailed Lions as “their parents,” according to the Asian Tribune. “We are really thankful to you for showing your personal concern and love for us,” he said to the Lions. Leprosy has been curable since the 1940s thanks to antibiotics. But its stigma endures in India, where those with the disease often are shunned. FRANCE Epic European Bike Ride Unites Lions Europeans are accustomed to seeing clusters of colorfully attired bike riders furiously pedaling up and down mountain roads and through quiet, picturesque villages. But they’ve never seen an organized ride quite like this. Fourteen experienced cyclists spent five days traversing the country roads of France, Switzerland and Italy. A motorcycle escort headed the riders and a van followed in the rear, both vehicles emblazoned with Lions logos. Lions from 10 clubs—three from France, three from Switzerland and four from Italy—provided bicycle escorts in and out of their towns and made sure the riders had dinner and a place to stay. Chartered two years ago, the Yvelines Heraldic Lions Club in France sponsored the 500-mile DéfiSt. Bernard (the St. Bernard Challenge), which included two climbs of the daunting 8,000-foot Great St. Bernard Pass in Switzerland and a few laps around a celebrated velodrome in Switzerland. The international character of the ride was a neat fit for the club, whose members hail from a variety of nations but share English as a language. “Our club wanted to demonstrate an example of the international cooperation that Lions can offer,” says Bob Bell, charter president. The ride also demonstrated the fitness and skill of the cyclists. They averaged 20 miles per hour, including the frequent arduous climbs, and sped down mountains as fast as 50 miles per hour. The sole injury was to a non-rider. “The only accident was a tumble by the doctor on his motorbike,” says Bell. The riders were drawn from a triathlon club to which a Lion belongs. They secured pledges, and the ride raised $20,000 for Mécénant Chirurgie Cardiaque, a charity that provides life-saving heart operations for children in developing nations. Years before he moved to France, Bell was a charter member of the English-speaking Brussels Heraldic Lions Club in 1984 in Belgium. His new club got off to a big splash with a swimathon and a theater outing. “But these really didn’t give the international dimension I had hoped to create,” says Bell, a Welshman who married a New Zealander and has lived and worked on five continents. “The joy of having 10 other clubs involved was proof that the word ‘international’ in our name is not a myth.” SWEDEN Lions Link with Artisans For four days each year artists and craftsmen in the ancient city of Hudiksvall open their studios to the public. They sell their art, and Hudiksvall Lions, who sponsor the Art Tour, hold a raffle to generate funds and raise their visibility. A quaint city of 15,000 founded in 1582, Hudiksvall has a small but lively arts community. The 37-member Hudiksvall Lions Club, chartered in 1952, is one of Sweden’s oldest Lions clubs. Last year the club raised US$4,000 from the raffle, which offers art as prizes. The club also runs a flea market and festival and supports local people in need, children in Senegal and Mexico and cancer research. NEW ZEALAND Lions Step Up For Shoebox Project Begin with an empty humdrum shoebox. Add toys, crafts and books. Decorate the box with Christmas wrapping paper and send to a warehouse for distribution to needy children. The end result is a happy Christmas morning. For five years the Eltham Lions Club in New Zealand has participated in Operation Christmas Child. The 45 shoeboxes members filled this holiday season were for children in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Samoa, Vietnam, Thailand, or Cambodia. The shoebox goodies fall into six categories: “something to love, something to wear, something to play with, something for hygiene, something for school and something special.” All those things add up to joy for both Lions and recipients. “This is a fantastic way to spread some Christmas love to children who otherwise would not receive any gifts. It’s a great way to involve Lions’ partners and families,” says Lion Clare Bramley. The largest Christmas project of its kind, Operation Christmas Child is coordinated by Samaritan’s Purse, led by Franklin Graham, the 2011 Lions Humanitarian Award recipient. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 113 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in 150 nations. NEPAL Nepalese Lions Get Creative Lions in Kathmandu in Nepal filmed and posted on YouTube a short video on street children. Kathmandu Gliese Lions have done projects to help homeless children but made the video to encourage its twinning club in Germany and Lions elsewhere to aid street children. The video consists of an original song by Nepalese singer Sajar Raaj and scenes of a bedraggled street urchin being ignored by passers-by. Raaj and the film actors donated their time and talents. Lion Sunit Shrestha, the video project coordinator, says, “The street children problem is not only in developing countries but in developed countries too. We want to pass the message to all Lions to help, support and adopt street children in your local community.” Watch the video at lionmagazine.org. AUSTRALIA Club ‘Segues’ to a New Fundraiser Surat Lions in Australia have found a novel way to raise funds: rent Segways. The 12-member club will provide the two-wheeled personal mobility devices for people who wish to ride along the town’s scenic river walk. “I think a lot of us nowadays have to be thinking outside the box, be supportive without being a drain in other ways on our community,” President Wendy Newman told ABC News in Australia. Located 300 miles from Brisbane, Surat has a population of 426. The club previously relied on donations from a mining company.
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