Lions History

The International Association of Lions Clubs began as a dream of Chicago businessman Melvin Jones. He believed that local business clubs should expand their horizons from purely professional concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at large.

Jones own group, The Business Circle, agreed. After contacting similar groups around the country, an organizational meeting was held on June 7, 1917 at the LaSalle Hotel in Chicago. The new group took the name of one of the groups invited, the “Association of Lions Clubs,” and a national convention was held in Dallas in October of that year. A constitution, by-laws, objects and code of ethics were approved.

Among the official objects adopted in those early years was one which read, “No club shall hold out the financial betterment of its members as its object.” This object has remained one of the association’s main tenents ever since.

Just three years after its formation, the organization became international when the first club in Canada was established in 1920. Major international expansion continued as clubs were established, particularly throughout Europe, Asia and Africa during the 1950s and 60s.

Perhaps the single event having the gratest impact on the association’s service committment occurred in 1925 when Helen Keller addressed the Lions at their In their international convention in Cedar Point, Ohio. It was there that she challenged Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”

In 1990 Lions launched their most aggressive sight preservation to date, SightFirst. The more than US$145 million-plus program strives to rid the world of preventable and reversible blindness by closing the gap between exixting health care services and those that remain desperately needed. In 2005, Campaign SightFirst II was launched with a goal of US $150 million. By late 2008, the goal has been reached and exceeded. More than $200 million has been raised.

Broadening its role in International understanding, the association helped the United Nations form the Non-Governmental Organizations sections in 1945, and continues to hold consultive status today. Each year, during the Lions Day with the United Nations ceremonies, an award is presented to the grand prize winner of the Lions International Peace Poster Contest.

Since those first years, the association has grown to include over 1.3 million men and women in more than 45,000 clubs located in approximately 202 countries and geographical areas. Lions Clubs International celebrated 90 years of service in 2007.