In the early 1990s, Lions raised more than $140 million to help end preventable blindness through the SightFirst program.
As a result of the massive fundraising campaign, Lions helped to save the eyesight of millions over the next decade through related grants and projects, especially cataract surgeries and other eye care services. Yet by 2002, there was much work left to do, and Lions Clubs International Foundation knew the funds wouldn’t last forever.
How would Lions build on the success of the far-reaching and life-changing program? They would do so by raising even more funds through a second campaign. The goal: at least $150 million and a stretch goal of $200 million.
“People thought we were crazy,” Past International President J. Frank Moore III said.
At the 2005 Lions Clubs International Convention in Hong Kong, Dr. Tae-Sup Lee, chairperson of the campaign, launched Campaign SightFirst II with the ringing of a gong. In Asia, tradition asserts that each strike of the gong reduces the suffering of one soul. Lions hoped to save millions of people from preventable blindness.
Campaign SightFirst II had new objectives in addition to the initial SightFirst I goals, which had included eliminating river blindness in Latin America and controlling its spread in Africa. The second campaign aimed its funds and programs at addressing emerging threats to vision such as diabetes, glaucoma and childhood blindness that affect all countries, not just those in developing nations with poor access to resources. Campaign funds would also be used for training, vision screening, eyeglasses, vision clinics and research, as well as for programs to help the blind and visually impaired whose eyesight cannot be restored.
With 30 lead gifts, Campaign SightFirst II was off and running. All over the world, Lions devoted countless hours to raising funds and awareness. Lions in Germany sold wine. The Quito Equinoccial Lions Club in Ecuador raffled off a car. Lions in Waterman, Illinois, USA, sponsored a 5K run in their town.
Members gave more than just their time and energy to fundraising. They gave personal financial donations to the campaign as well, especially Lions in Japan and Korea. Within a year, Lions raised US$60 million toward the campaign. In 2008, the campaign fundraising closed with Lions surpassing their stretch goal to reach US$205 million.
SightFirst II is funding a wide range of high-quality, sustainable projects around the globe. The Lions of District 122 in the Czech Republic received a US$133,000 grant to support training courses at the Lions Ophthalmic Education Centre in Prague. In Belize, a US$130,000 grant is helping to expand screening and treatment for eye disease associated with diabetes. Sustainable models of service, such as training and providing equipment, also continue to be a key focus of the ongoing distribution of campaign funds.
The program’s expanded scope is making SightFirst more relevant and available to Lions in all countries.
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