Lions learn how to make sight beautiful

NUKOLI‘I — “What can we do to make ourselves better?”

A keynote speaker usually delivers presentations, and it was unusual that Jimmy M. Ross, Lions international first vice president (and president-elect), would ask a question of that nature.

But, the interest in creating a better Lion was on his mind, and the question was genuine as he met with Lion leaders from within the state of Hawai‘i prior to the start of the statewide Lions convention at the Kauai Beach Hotel & Resort.

People know of Lions as a community group who do service projects, Ross said. But, how do Lions become more than that in the eyes of the community? he asked.

Roy Nishida, district governor for the Lions of District 50, pointed out that one of the ways Lions fulfill their motto of “We Serve,” and still serve the community, is in the East Kauai Lions Golf Tournament, which raised funds for the Campaign Sight First II project.

This is a major fund-raising project conducted by the Lions Club International, and was kicked off at the Lions International Convention in Hong Kong in 2005.

Campaign Sight First II raises funds to be used to combat preventable blindness throughout the world.

“We want to reach out to the blind who have little or no means of support,” said Mervin Yee, who will be replacing Nishida as the next district governor.

“We may not have blindness as a major disease in America, but in some of the other countries of the world, blindness, and more specifically, preventable blindness, is a big problem. Can you imagine life being blind?” Yee asked.

Mel Nakamura, past international director who grew up in Kapa‘a, is the District 50 coordinator for Campaign Sight First II.

Nakamura said the District 50 goal is to raise at least $150,000 for the program. “It would be better if we can reach $200,000,” Nakamura said.

Nakamura and Yee, who both host pancake breakfasts with their respective club members in Manoa and Hawaii Kai, respectively, said part of the proceeds from these events go towards the Campaign Sight First II program.

On Kaua‘i, Nishida said the East Kauai Lions Pancake Breakfast raises funds for the club’s operations and projects.

The recent golf tournament hosted by the East Kauai Lions Club had its proceeds earmarked for the Campaign Sight First II.

The importance of sight conservation was highlighted through a program started by the East Kaua‘i Lions Club in 1975.

The “Sight is Beautiful” poster contest has since become one of the major Lions project statewide, where students are rewarded with monetary prizes in their efforts to bring awareness to the importance of sight conservation.

Ross pointed out that the state convention, which has drawn over 300 Lions and their families to the Kauai Beach Hotel & Resort, is reserved for the island on which the district governor resides.

Yee will be sworn in by Ross in July at the National Convention which will take place in Boston. That will officially end Nishida’s term as district governor.

Internationally, Ross said Lions International totals over 1,300,000 members spread over 196 countries.

He pointed out that some of the smaller nations in Africa are the newest countries to join the Lions International Program, but Mainland China has been showing rapid expansion in their memberships over the past several years.

Helen Keller proclaimed Lions to be the “Knights of the Blind.”

Living up to this proclamation, the Lions of District 50 have done a lot to help the blind, as well as help in the area of sight conservation, Nishida said.

The Hawaii Lions Foundation Eye Bank celebrated its 25th anniversary on Oct. 25 and, to date, 3,000 cornea transplants have been done. Additionally, Lions of District 50 have been active in the recycling of eye glasses, one of their major projects.

Lions have been providing service in Hawai‘i’s communities for eight decades, as the Lions Club of Honolulu will be celebrating their 80th charter anniversary in October.

Charlie Ortiz, a West Kauai Lion who was in attendance at the pre-convention reception, said that he attended his first state convention last year, and felt that it was a good time to get to know other Lions better.

Additionally, Ortiz said workshops help people and club officers become better in their roles of serving the community.

Ortiz, who also doubles as one of the referees for the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation basketball games, said the convention wouldn’t get in the way of that duty. “It’s OK,” he said. “If I have to go, I can just go.”

Two major contributions in the history of Lionism have come from Lions of District 50. Colbert Kurokawa drafted a constitutional amendment in 1926 that changed the Lions Club International constitution from “adult white male” to include all men and, in 1987, the constitution was changed to include women.

Additionally, the late Lion Tom Shields composed the Lions International pledge that was made official in 1947. This pledge has become part of the traditional opening ceremony at all Lion events.

“I didn’t think this was going to be that hard, but this is hard work,” said Harvey Kinoshita of the East Kauai Lions Club, the convention chairman, while waiting at the end of the buffet line.

“We started planning this event over a year ago, and now we’ll see how everything works out.”

The convention will end with the district governor’s banquet tonight, when the Lion Humanitarian Award will be presented for the first time ever to a Neighbor Island man who contributed significantly in time and services to their community.

The winner, whom Nishida would not name, is not a Lion.

• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com.

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