Mint Hill Lions Club to host 22nd annual 5K to support visually impaired

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Last week, Mint Hill Lions Club Member Scott Jeffers received a call from Belinda Swain, a guidance counselor at Bain Elementary School.  Ms. Swain needed help to replace a pair of broken glasses for a low-income student, and she reached out to Jeffers to make sure a voucher the Mint Hill Lions Club had provided for counselors at Bain would work at First Choice Eye Care.

Jeffers sprang into action.  After confirming that First Choice would honor the voucher, he replied to Ms. Swain, letting her know that First Choice was ready to help the child get his replacement glasses as quickly as possible.

“The Lions’ goal in this transaction was to have the school and the optometrist work together closely so that no information about the child’s identity or medical information would be shared,” says Jeffers.  “The Lions just wanted to pay for the service as part of our charter – We Serve. We are still not sure whether it was a boy or a girl.”

The Lions Club’s support of the visually impaired through services like this dates back to the club’s founding over a century ago.  Shortly after Melvin Jones (who would have celebrated his 141st birthday this week) established the group as the “Lions of Business” in 1917, the Lions began their work assisting the visually impaired.  At a time when many viewed the blind as incapable of being educated, supporting themselves or living independently, the Lions created jobs for the blind and provided vision screenings in schools.

In 1922, the Lions of Cincinnati asked schools what children who were blind needed most.  Teachers and administrators immediately zeroed in on the lack of non-academic reading material available for the blind.  Thus was born International Juvenile Braille Monthly, the first braille magazine for children filled with stories, games, and puzzles.

In 1925, Helen Keller (accompanied by her teacher Anne Sullivan) addressed 7500 Lions gathered for their annual convention at Cedar Point.  “I appeal to you, Lions, you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind,” said Keller. “Will you not constitute yourself Knights of the Blind in my crusade against darkness?”  Keller’s words became a rallying cry for the Lions, who were henceforth energized to do more for the blind and visually impaired.

Like all Lions Clubs, the Mint Hill Lions continue this tradition today by raising money to assist lower-income residents who are visually impaired.  The Mint Hill Lions Club provides vision screenings for low-income students at local schools, and, like in the example from Bain Elementary above, makes sure visually impaired students get the support they need.  They support white cane distribution and leader dog training, fundraise by selling brooms in the lobby of First National Bank and renting tables, tents and chairs locally, and collect eyeglasses and help transport them to other countries to be repurposed for those that cannot afford corrective lenses.  They support the “Lions Service Eye Clinic” located on North Tryon Street, which both provides eye care for those who need financial assistance and employs individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

One project near and dear to the Lions Club is its support of Camp Dogwood, a place where Visually Impaired Persons can learn skills to help adjust to a recent loss in vision.  Several weekends a year, Camp Dogwood opens itself up for visually impaired children to both learn important career skills and enjoy the same traditional camp activities typically enjoyed by their sighted peers.  “People from all across the country come to visit it,” says Jeffers. “There are very few places in the state – if not the United States – where a visually impaired person can have the chance to waterski! It’s pretty unique.”

The Mint Hill Lions also partner with other Lions Clubs to support larger vision-based initiatives.  For example, they partner with other North Carolina-based Lions Clubs annually to support the Visually Impaired Person Fishing Tournament in the Outer Banks.  They also participate in a multi-club program called “Brighter Visions Fundraiser” to support the North Carolina Lions Foundation. Mint Hill Club member Bill Mathers is the Brighter Visions 2019 Fundraising Chairperson.  Brighter Visions does many of the same things statewide that their club does locally.

On Saturday, March 28, the Mint Hill Lions Club will continue their quest to support the visually impaired with the 22nd annual Mint Hill Lions Club 5k.  At 8:00 a.m., runners will set off from Town Hall.

Runners will “start their engines” in front of Town Hall

The race has changed considerably in its 22 years in Mint Hill.  Race coordinator Jeffers remembers the first race he participated in when he joined the club in 1999.  “It started in the parking lot of Bain Elementary,” says Jeffers. “We basically went down Bain School Road and back.  There were maybe twenty or twenty-five runners tops – and one of those was my one-year-old!”

Jeffers hopes to see over 200 people run in this year’s race.

Much has changed since the small race Jeffers remembers out and back on Bain School Road.  This year’s 5K will start and end at Town Hall. Last year, 177 people ran; this year, Jeffers hopes to top 200.  But the core of the Lions Club 5k remains the same: every cent earned through the race will go straight into the Lions Club project account.  This year, Jeffers simply hopes to raise as much as possible to support projects that support the vision.

The Lion with one of last year’s finishers.

“We haven’t set a hard and fast goal of earning so many dollars,” says Jeffers.  “We just want to maximize the effort. We’d like to maximize the partnerships we form in the neighborhood.  We really want to step up our game and partner with as many sponsors as we can.” One big sponsor that Jeffers is thrilled to already have onboard is Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center.  “They have supported us and are partnering with us in this effort, and we are very grateful,” says Jeffers.  

The Mint Hill Lions Club 5K will take off from Town Hall at 8:00 am on Saturday, March 28.  Sign up today at

  • If you are interested in sponsoring the Mint Hill Lions Club 5K, contact Scott Jeffers: or 704-562-4327.
  • If you are interested in renting tables, tents or chairs from the Mint Hill Lions, call Julian Venable for more information:  704-641-3431.
  • Learn more about the history and mission of the Lions Club on their website:
  • For more information about who the Mint Hill Lions Club is and what they do, watch their short YouTube video:
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