The numbers tell the impact: 178,000 athletes screened, 85,000 prescription eye glasses distributed, more than 12,000 Lions clubs members recruited and more than 11,000 vision care professionals trained. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Opening Eyes, the partnership between Special Olympics and Lions Clubs International to provide free vision screenings and glasses to Special Olympics athletes. “It is important that each of the intellectually disabled people find their dreams and wants to be part of this important program. We have achievements that will continue forever in our lives,” said Ariel Ary, an athlete at the 2010 Special Olympics Latin American Regional Games. LCIF has awarded more than $11 million to support Opening Eyes in more than 80 nations. In February, LCIF Chairperson Al Brandel and his wife, Dr. Maureen Murphy, joined nearly 100 Lions who screened 1,200 athletes from 34 countries at the Latin American Regional Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A large number of athletes had never had a comprehensive eye exam. Roberto Oliver Guillen, a 24-year-old from San Salvador, was screened and provided with free frames by Safilo, S. p.A and fitted with prescription polycarbonate lenses by Essilor International. Essilor of Puerto Rico cut the lenses on site, enabling Roberto to receive his new prescription glasses before leaving the screening. Essilor and Saflio provide in-kind product donations for Opening Eyes, further leveraging Lions funding. “This is a great example of the impact we can have when we join hands,” said International Director Eugenio Roman Jr., who coordinated Lions involvement at the Latin American Games. “This partnership gives our clubs a wonderful way to serve, while really serving to better ourselves.” Lions in Puerto Rico are establishing new Lions clubs in support of Special Olympics and those with intellectual disabilities. Similarly, other special interest Lions clubs are being formed in California, Minnesota and Sydney, Australia. “The formation of Lions clubs dedicated to supporting those with intellectual disabilities in Spcial Olympics is a wonderful development for our partnership,” said Brandel. Said David Evangelista, director of the partnership for Special Olympics International, “As a Lion myself, I have experienced firsthand the transformative nature that service can have on individuals, and the way it becomes a positive, contagious force. It is exciting to see this energy of service for those with intellectual disability.” More than 100 Opening Eyes programs are scheduled to take place this year at Special Olympics Games including in Warsaw at the Europe Eurasia Regional Games, in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the USA National Games and in Athens at the Greece National Games. Plans are also under way for a 10th anniversary celebration and screening event in Osaka, Japan, in October as part of Lions World Sight Day. Lions’ involvement in the partnership is critical. Lions help coordinate the screenings and volunteer during the events. Lions are encouraged to visit the Opening Eyes demonstration screening at the International Convention in Sydney, Australia. More information is available at www.lcif.org.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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