The philanthropic focus of the Lions Club has an interesting back-story. In 1925, Helen Keller stood before a room full of men at the Lions Club International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, asking them to imagine what it's like to stumble around in the dark.
In a plea to raise money for the newly formed American Foundation of the Blind, she recounted her own experience with blindness and pleaded with them to join the cause to help more people see the light.
"I appeal to you, Lions -- you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind -- will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in my crusade against darkness?" [source: American Foundation of the Blind].
Since that day, fighting blindness has been the primary focus of Lions Clubs International, which at this time still sponsors free eye screening programs through mobile clinics, pays for cataract surgeries for the poor and collects eye glasses for those in need.
Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., the Lions Clubs has a simple motto: "We serve." Today it's one of the world's largest service organizations, with 1.3 million members in more than 200 countries including China, Ethiopia and Iraq [source: Lions Club].
Besides blindness, the Lions Clubs also sponsor programs to provide schoolbooks for children, feed the hungry, provide transportation for seniors and raise money for disaster relief. Groups meet regularly to discuss possible opportunities to give back and there's a certain level of freedom that allows local groups to make decisions based on what their communities need.
Interested in learning more about the Lions? Read on to find out how the organization got started.