In 2001, the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and Special Olympics formed a partnership that has proven to be instrumental in furthering a shared mission of the two organizations: to promote and provide inclusive health, sports and community for people with intellectual disabilities. Throughout the past two decades, the Lions Clubs International Foundation has provided irreplaceable support to the Special Olympics movement, broadening the scope and impact of the inclusion revolution throughout the globe.
In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of this incredible partnership, Special Olympics Board Chairman Timothy Shriver shared his appreciation for the Lions Club International Foundation. “No organization has been more loyal or generous and more engaged at the grassroots level than Lions for the level of determination and conviction that has accompanied their commitment to project inclusion and the Special Olympics movement.”
This critical partnership began in an effort to address the disparities in health services for people with intellectual disabilities. The two organizations combined to create the Lions Clubs International Foundation-Special Olympics Opening Eyes Program (Opening Eyes)—providing eye and vision health screenings, corrective prescription eyewear and protective sports eyewear for people with intellectual disabilities. Since then, more than 445,000 vision and eye health assessments have been conducted and over 260,000 prescription eyeglasses have been provided to athletes at no cost. But the partnership’s impact doesn’t stop there.
In 2013, the two organizations expanded their partnership further to create “Mission: Inclusion,” an expansive platform that provides additional areas of service and inclusion offering family health education, inclusive sports, refugee programming, leadership and national partnership development, club creation, development and more. “Mission: Inclusion” is now present in over 100 nations and has emerged as one of the most impactful service platforms worldwide.
In a recent webinar celebrating the 20th Anniversary of this partnership, Special Olympics athlete and Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger, Emanuelle Dutra Fernandes de Souza, spoke on the impact of these initiatives: “We athletes are incredibly grateful for the partnership between Special Olympics and Lions because it provides access to free health screenings that have been literal life-changers for so many of us and have been making dreams come true.”
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of this steadfast partnership, Special Olympics offers the utmost gratitude to the Lions Clubs International Foundation for its lasting commitment to inclusion, kindness and service. A culmination of 20 years, over 22,000 Lions volunteers and more than $26 million in donations have allowed Special Olympics and the Lions Clubs International Foundation to transform lives and communities through their fight end discrimination for people with intellectual disabilities. Such a partnership represents the power of inclusive development as the march toward a better, more inclusive world continues. Happy 20th Anniversary!