We Serve: Knights of the Blind
By Kris Leonhardt
Part II in a series on the Marshfield Lions
Helen Keller passed away on June 1, 1968, and while her legacy has seemed to somewhat diminish; she remains an icon to Lions members across the country.
Sometime during the 1980s, Keller’s biography “The Story of My Life” disappeared from many school curricula. The 1960s movie and Broadway play, “The Miracle Worker,” has also captured Keller’s life and the play continues to be performed around the world.
While many young students may know her name, they may not know of her achievements and the mark she left in our society, but the Lions do.
At the age of 18 months, Keller developed an illness that left her blind and deaf. With the help of teacher, Anne Sullivan, Keller learned to use sign language and read Braille. She later learned to speak and became an advocate for people with disabilities.
“In 1925, at our national convention, the keynote speaker was Helen Keller,” said Steve McCabe. “And, she asked the Lions to be the ‘Knights of the Blind.’ It was unanimously accepted by the Lions International to serve the blind and the visually handicapped.”
“I am your opportunity. I am knocking at your door. I want to be adopted,” Keller said in her 1925 speech in Chicago. “The legend doesn’t say what you are to do when several beautiful opportunities present themselves at the same door. I guess you have to choose the one you love best. I hope you will adopt me. I am the youngest here, and what I offer you is full of splendid opportunities for service…
“Try to imagine how you would feel if you were suddenly stricken blind today. Picture yourself stumbling and groping at noonday as in the night; your work, your independence, gone. In that dark world wouldn’t you be glad if a friend took you by the hand and said, ‘Come with me and I will teach you how to do some of the things you used to do when you could see?’ That is just the kind of friend the American Foundation is going to be to all the blind in this country if seeing people will give it the support it must have.”
With those and other appeals, Keller asked the Lions to “foster and sponsor the work of the American Foundation for the Blind.”
A task they readily accepted and still use as a beacon for much of what they do today.
Upon their formation, this also became a focus for the Marshfield Lions.
Continued next week