Lions challenged to support new campaign

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lions International had high expectations for their SightFirst project back in July 1991.

They didn't realize just how far they would take their worldwide goal to improve eye health and eye care.

Howard Jackson, a Thomasville Lion and group coordinator for Campaign SightFirst II, spoke to the Greenville Lions on Monday concerning the accomplishments of the charitable project.

&#8220In July 1991, we hoped to improve eye care for 75 million people; we did that for 100 million people. We wanted to prevent vision loss or restore vision in 8.7 million people; we accomplished that for 24 million people,” Jackson said.

One of the most impressive statistics was the training of nearly 68,000 health-care professionals when the initial goal had been for 2,500 individuals.

The SightFirst Program has benefited people in 89 countries, providing 4.6 million cataract surgeries and the building or expanding 258 eye hospitals.

Of course, all this costs money – a lot of money.

&#8220I admit I was pessimistic initially about raising the $130 million to do all this,” Jackson said.

&#8220Well, we didn't raise $130 million; we raised $143 million.”

Those funds grew to nearly $200 million through interest from investments and additional donations.

With the SightFirst funds nearly exhausted, Jackson said it is time once again for the Lions to step up and set a new goal.

&#8220We have done so much good, it's important to try and maintain and expand what we've done already.”

Campaign SightFirst II is now underway with its goal to eliminate or control major causes of blindness, including cataract, trachoma, river blindness, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Lions International is encouraging local clubs to consider one of several ways to raise funds for the new campaign:

n Personal donations/gifts from individual Lions Club members

n Personal gifts from non-Lions who wish to support sight charities

n Separate fund-raising events

n Donation from the local club's treasury

n Some combination of the above

Greenville Lions President Doyle Sasser said he was sure the local group would do as Lion Jackson advised and commit to a plan by late September, if not sooner.

The Greenville Lions meet at noon the first four Mondays of each month at the Boys and Girls Club.