Lions Clubs International is the largest service organization in the world, with 1.3 million members in more than 180 countries.
The Lions motto "We Serve" reflects a mission that starts in local communities and ripples throughout states, the nation, and the world.
The Lions’ dedication to helping the visually-impaired and blind is nearly a century old. In 1925, when Lions International was in its infancy, the legendary Helen Keller spoke to members at their annual convention. She challenged them to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” That speech set the Lions’ course as stewards of vision research, treatments, and cures.
In Minnesota, the Lions represent some of the state’s most dedicated volunteers. There are more than 20,000 Lions and Lioness members in Minnesota and more than 600 Lions clubs statewide.
Lions and the University
The Minnesota Lions first formed a partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Ophthalmology in 1960 when they established the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank. This partnership, known as the Lions Sight Program, has grown and to-date has garnered the University more than $18 million in Lions’ contributions.
The Lions Sight Program at the University of Minnesota includes:
- Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, dedicated to recovering, processing, and distributing donated eye tissue for use in sight-saving corneal transplants, vision-enhancing surgery, research, and education. The Minnesota Lions Eye Bank is one of the most successful of its kind in the country, and more than 18,000 people have received the gift of sight with donated eye tissue provided through the bank.
- Lions Children’s Eye Clinic, opened in 1978, where more than 5,000 children are seen every year. The clinic is the second largest and best-staffed clinic of its kind in the country.
- Ophthalmology Research at the Lions Research Building. The University of Minnesota Lions Research Building, which opened its doors in 1993, includes a state-of-the-art laboratory where investigators from the departments of ophthalmology, otolaryngology, and neurology collaborate with other University departments on research projects.
- Minnesota Lions Macular Degeneration Research and Rehabilitation Center (The MAC), established in 1998 to research the causes of—and cures for—a disease that affects the central vision and is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. The MAC brings together the expertise of physicians, the research of various departments around the University, and the knowledge of those in the medical technology industry. It is a powerful collaboration of resources dedicated to finding a cure for macular degeneration
- Minnesota Lions Fund to Prevent Blindness in Infants and Children. Created in 2010, the Fund supports infant and children's eye research, education, and care at the Department of Ophthalmology in the University of Minnesota Medical School. The goal of the Fund is to give every child a lifetime of sight.
Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation
The Lions Sight Program is supported by the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation, Inc. The Vision Foundation funds the operating expenses of the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, their first and largest project, and provides a board of directors that gives fiscal oversight to the eye bank. The Foundation partners with Lions of Minnesota, the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, and the University of Minnesota to increase public awareness about eye donation.
In addition to their work with the eye bank, the non-profit foundation aids in funding research projects and equipment for University of Minnesota vision programs and fosters, advances, and promotes vision-related scientific, educational, or charitable aims and projects of other individuals or associations. The Foundation also facilitates used eyeglass recycling in Minnesota.
For more information on the the Lions and the work of the Foundation, please visit the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation web site.
Contact the Lions
If you wish to contact the Lions, LionNet Minnesota can help you find a Minnesota Lions club on the Web. To see a complete listing of Lions Clubs, visit Lions Clubs International.