Warsaw, Poland, September 19, 2010 – Today, Lions Clubs International celebrates 10 years of global partnership with Special Olympics on the Opening Eyes program. During the 2010 Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia Regional Games, taking place in Warsaw this week, Lions expect to screen the 200,000th athlete through the partnership program. View photos from the event.
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has a long history of supporting initiatives to help disabled populations. Through Opening Eyes, a partnership program between Lions Clubs International and Special Olympics, Lions clubs members around the world volunteer at Special Olympics games, registering athletes, conducting vision screenings and fitting glasses. More than 12,000 Lions have volunteered in the Opening Eyes program, and LCIF has contributed more than US$12.2 million in funding in support of this program.
Through the partnership, Lions are helping to improve eye care services. In addition, the partnership is helping to train additional vision care specialists on how to provide better vision care to this population. The need is great. Research has shown that among Special Olympics athletes, 68 percent have not had an eye examination in three years, 37 percent are in need of eyeglasses and 18 percent wear clinically incorrect eyeglasses.
“We have never had more significant partnership in the history of Special Olympics than the partnership we have today with the Lions Clubs,” said Tim Shriver, Chairman & CEO of Special Olympics International.
The partnership is a model of collaboration, with Lions Clubs volunteers and Special Olympics volunteer Clinical Directors and volunteers working side-by-side. The partnership is also strengthened significantly through the support of optic industry leaders. Essilor International is the global exclusive supplier of lenses to Opening Eyes, and Safilo, S.p.A serves as global exclusive supplier of ophthalmic frames and sunglasses. Opening Eyes provides life-changing clinical intervention through the provision of prescription eyeglasses, while also helping athletes with more urgent eye care needs receive a referral to an eye care specialist in their community.
“This partnership is a natural for Lions, given our mission of saving sight and helping the disabled. It is truly is a collaboration between four organizations with a shared mission,” said Eberhard J. Wirfs, Chairperson of LCIF. “More than 12,000 Lions have given their time to support this program, and we are dedicated to continuing this partnership.”
The games run from September 18-24. Wirfs will attend the event and participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony with Shriver, officially opening the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program, of which Opening Eyes is one of the flagship initiatives. Together, they will officially launch the Opening Eyes screening at the games. More than 1,600 athletes from 58 countries will complete in the 2010 Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia Regional Games in Warsaw.
This month, Lions and Special Olympics also commemorate Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day, which will be officially marked on September 25. Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day is an annual celebration of her life and a global call for people to commit actions of inclusion, acceptance and unity for and with people with intellectual disability. What started as an inclusive sports camp in the early 1960s has blossomed into a worldwide movement transforming lives in over 170 countries. She helped transform the lives of the 200 million people worldwide with intellectual disabilities. The participation of Lions Clubs volunteers at the 2010 Special Olympics European Regional Games is just one example of how Lions worldwide will mark this day.
Lions Clubs International Foundation
Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) is the charitable arm of Lions Clubs International, the world’s largest service club organization with 1.35 million members in 207 geographic areas and countries. LCIF was ranked by a Financial Times' study as the number one non-governmental organization with which to partner. Through LCIF, Lions have helped to save or restore the vision of more than 30 million people worldwide. Learn more about LCIF at www.lcif.org.
Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to nearly 3.5 million athletes in over 170 countries. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org.