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Holliston Lions: Identifying Risk Factors for Blindness

by Doreen Martel
April 9, 2019

Since Helen Keller laid down her challenge for Lions to become Knights of the Blind, we have done just that. Through education, financially supporting research efforts and through our well-known Eyemobile, Lions across Massachusetts have taken steps to identify those at the highest risk of blindness.

One way the Lions Clubs in District 33K, of which Holliston is a part, fight back is by manning the District 33K Eyemobile. Currently, our Eyemobile is a self-contained unit with state-of-the-art equipment designed to detect early signs of eye disease in adults and children. The history of the Lions Eyemobile is one of perseverance.

In 1970, the District Governor in 33K was Arthur Metzger of the Sudbury-Wayland Lions Club (now defunct). The very first unit was a used furniture van which was donated by Lion Ed Lynch, then a member of the Somerville MA Lions Club.

In 1972, the Lions of Somerville and Waltham raised money to acquire a new, movable trailer. This unit was massive, and the National Guard were often called upon to help us with moving the unit from town to town. This often meant clubs would have to plan events as far as six months in advance.  Lions all over District 33K donated funds to obtain equipment including eye screening equipment and blood pressure equipment. The first user was the Brighton Lions Club (now defunct).

Dedication to Providing Free Health Screenings

In 1972 at their convention, the Lions of District 33K elected to accept the Eyemobile as a recognized charity of the Clubs. At the time, and through today, the area of coverage includes 58 communities in and around Boston.

It was also voted that the Eyemobile register as a non-profit corporation, owned wholly by the Lions Clubs of District 33K. District Governor Arthur Metzger was elected as the first President. The Lions did not stop there ….

In 1988, District 33K Lions Clubs raised nearly $200,000 and with a grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation, Inc. and grants from local businesses, the first self-contained Eyemobile was purchased. This 40-foot unit contained state of the art equipment. On an annual basis, the unit serves more than 2,000 people, conducting more than 6,500 screenings. On average, approximately 27 percent of these screenings identify potential problems.

As with any equipment, the Eyemobile was growing older and thousands of dollars annually were being utilized for maintenance. In addition, advances in technology meant much of the original equipment was growing outdated. In 2016, the Lions once again raised funds and with a matching grant purchased the unit that is being used today.

Since the original unit was purchased, Lions Clubs across District 33K have screened more than 25,000 children and adults to identify high blood pressure, hearing problems, and vision problems. You will find Lions hard at work at school functions, health fairs, parades and other community functions. The Eyemobile puts a special emphasis on elderly, African American, and children and other groups at the highest risk for eye-related diseases. In many cases, the Lions Club sponsoring the unit will help anyone who has an identifiable issue locate free or low-cost treatment whenever possible.

Eyemobile Leadership Includes Holliston Lions

The Eyemobile has had several local Lions who have served as President including:

  • Lion Roger McCann (Millis)
  • Lion Anthony Minucci (Ashland)
  • Lion Peter Ciolek (Medway)
  • Lion Thomas Merritt (Holliston)

Currently, Holliston Lions Dick Goguen, Gordon Maxfield and Cissy Seeto are actively involved in the Eyemobile’s Board of Directors. The Holliston Lions Club & the Holliston Leo’s Club sponsor the unit one or two times annually. All screenings are free of charge to the public and the costs of the unit are borne by the Lions Clubs in District 33K. When the unit is in use, Clubs are strictly prohibited from doing any fundraising activities.

In our next installment, we will discuss Lions Clubs International history and how that history has impacted the Holliston Lions Club.


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