It all goes back to 1925, when Helen Keller
addressed the Lions International Convention
in Cedar Point, Ohio.
“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 this crusade against darkness?”
Lions Clubs have a long history of supporting services for the vision-impaired, originating with Helen Keller’s challenge.
The Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation (LSH) has its roots in two foundations that started in the mid-1960s.
The Lions Eye Foundation of Southern California (LEFSC) was formed in 1963 to support the work of the Doheny Eye Institute and its corneal transplant bank. The Southern California Lions Eye Institute (SCLEI) grew out of a project of the Santa Monica Lions Club to provide eye surgery for those who couldn’t afford it at St. John’s Hospital under the direction of Dr. Robert Sinskey. Eventually the organization grew to incorporate Lions Clubs over a wider area in Southern California.
In 2009 the two organizations merged, and in 2011 the foundation added a hearing program in recognition that hearing impairment presented a huge unmet need, since the technology needed was not covered by most health insurance, including Medicare.
Today the Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation retains its close connection with Lions Clubs, and is a project endorsed by Lions Clubs and Lions International. It welcomes participation from many quarters and non-Lions may serve on its Board of Directors. It draws support from Lions Clubs as well as foundations, corporations and individual donors. LSH receives no federal, state or local government funding.
- 1925: Helen Keller addresses Lions National Convention in Columbus, Ohio, challenging them to become the “Knights of the Blind.”
- 1931: Lions International begins promoting the use of the white cane.
- 1959: Santa Monica Lions Club sponsors a clinic to provide eye surgery to low-income residents.
- 1963: Lions Eye Foundation of Southern California (LEFSC) is formed.
- 1965: Santa Monica Lions Eye Clinic opens on the grounds of St. Johns Hospital.
- 1968: The Southern California Lions Eye Institute (SCLEI) is formed.
- 2009: SCLEI and LEFSC merge to become the Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation of Southern California.
- 2011: The new hearing program is launched.
- 2014: LSH launches a new website and expands its communications effort to include social media and email outreach.