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News Release

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter Dedicates “Gift of Sight” Statue at Lions Clubs International Headquarters in Recognition of Lions’ Blindness Prevention Efforts

View the media coverage of the event and view and download photos.

Oak Brook, Illinois, January 27, 2009—Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will dedicate the “Gift of Sight” statue on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 at Lions Clubs International headquarters, 300 W. 22nd St., Oak Brook. The statue symbolizes Lions Clubs International Foundation’s (LCIF) ongoing collaborative efforts to combat preventable blindness and is a gift to Lions from The Carter Center.

The bronze statue depicts a child leading a man blinded by river blindness. For hundreds of years, a child leading a blind elder has been the fate of families stricken with river blindness, or onchocerciasis, in Africa and Latin America.

The dedication of the statue is part of a two-day symposium at Lions Clubs International headquarters where leading sight and health organizations from around the world will gather to discuss positive youth development and blindness prevention. A Lions club member, President Carter has long joined Lions in their fight to save and restore sight.

"Rosalynn and I have seen the devastating effects that blinding diseases have on individuals and their families. The Carter Center and Lions Clubs International Foundation, along with other vital partners, are working to preserve the vision of millions of people in Africa and the Americas," said Carter Center Founder President Carter. "Thanks to these coordinated efforts, river blindness is nearly eliminated from the Western Hemisphere."

LCIF recently completed a three-year global fundraising campaign, raising $203 million to continue and expand LCIF’s SightFirst program worldwide. Fifty million will fund projects to combat emerging threats to sight in the U.S. and other developed countries, such as conditions related to diabetes, low vision and glaucoma. More than $100 million will support programs that control and eliminate the major causes of blindness, such as river blindness, cataract and trachoma. The remaining $50+ million will fund support new research initiatives and rehabilitation.

LCIF has a long history of partnering with The Carter Center and Merck & Co, Inc. to fight river blindness. Through these joint efforts, experts predict river blindness will be eliminated in Latin America by the year 2012.

“It is a great honor to have former President Jimmy Carter dedicate this symbolic statue,” said Lions Clubs International President, Albert Brandel. “This partnership program is preventing and eliminating blindness around the world, and Lions are proud to take a hands-on approach.”

Currently river blindness is prevalent in Latin America and Africa and is transmitted by the bite of a black fly. The disease is often blinding but can be treated through medication. Merck has donated 600 million doses of this medicine through its MECTIZAN Donation Program to LCIF and other partners, and LCIF has awarded more than $30 million to The Carter Center for river blindness and other eye disease control programs through the Lions-Carter Center SightFirst Initiative. Lions play a vital local role in the programs, helping educate people on the diseases, distributing the drug and providing for eye health training and equipment.

"We are very proud to be a part of this global partnership effort to help eliminate river blindness,” said Dr. Vlad Hogenhuis, Senior Vice President of Neuroscience and Ophthalmics at Merck & Co., Inc. “Merck is committed to vision care and improving the lives of patients around the world through research, development and delivery of breakthrough medications."

Partnerships with leading NGOs and corporations play a key role in enabling Lions to promote and expand the global humanitarian effort to combat preventable blindness.

The statue was commissioned by The Carter Center Board Chair, John Moores. The sculptor, R.T. “Skip” Wallen, internationally recognized sculptor and printmaker from Juneau, Alaska volunteered his time to produce the original bronze study. Other life-size castings of the “Gift of Sight” statue are located at The Carter Center in Atlanta and Merck & Co, Inc. Headquarters in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, as well as four additional locations worldwide.

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Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization with 1.35 million members in 45,000 clubs in more than 206 countries and geographical areas around the world. Lions Clubs International Foundation is the charitable arm of Lions Clubs International. LCIF was ranked by a Financial Times’ study as the number one non-governmental organization with which to partner. Established in 1968, LCIF has been involved with blindness prevention and treatment for nearly 20 years through the SightFirst program. LCIF has awarded $231 million for sight programs and prevented serious vision loss for 30 million people. Learn more at www.lionsclubs.org and www.lcif.org.

"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope."
A not-for-profit, non-governmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. Please visit www.cartercenter.org to learn more about The Carter Center.

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