The World Health Organization has estimated that the number of blind people in the world could double in the next 25 years.
To combat the leading causes of blindness and assist in preserving vision, the Coon Rapids Lions Club is participating in a Lions World Sight Day activity Oct. 13 to heighten awareness and education about sight preservation and preventable blindness.
Its work will also directly benefit community and the surrounding area by fundraising for the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank.
Lions World Sight Day is a global vision initiative sponsored by Lions Clubs International and takes place annually on the second Thursday of October in an effort to raise awareness about sight-related issues.
The Coon Rapids club will be joining in this global event by holding its annual White Cane Days event at various locations around Coon Rapids Saturday, Oct. 13.
The Lions will be setting up informational booths at Cub Foods (Riverdale), Jensen’s Foods and Cub Foods (Northdale) where they will be providing information on how to help prevent blindness and will also be collecting donations for the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank at the University of Minnesota.
The booths will be manned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 13.
In addition to taking donations from the public, the club will be collecting used eyeglasses and hearing aids for its ongoing project to bring proper vision and hearing to those in need in other countries.
“It is estimated that 40 million people around the world are blind,” said John Merriam, White Cane Days chairperson for the club.
“To honor Lions World Sight Day, the Coon Rapids Lions are working in unison with Lions clubs around the world to educate millions of people on the importance of proper eye health care.
“In the United States, approximately 750,000 people are blind and an additional 50,000 more will become blind each year, according to the National Federation of the Blind.
“Like most developed countries, glaucoma and diabetes are the leading causes of blindness in the United States.”
On a worldwide scale, an estimated 75 percent of all blindness is found in Africa and Asia, according to the World Health Organization.
In Africa, there are an estimated 500,000 new cases of cataracts each year, of which only one in 10 is operated on, Merriam said.
In India, 80 percent of the blind suffer from cataracts, with more than 3.8 million new cases reported each year, he said.
“Lions Clubs International and its members hope their efforts will eventually bring about the end of the hardships these people face because of their vision problems,” Merriam said.
“The Coon Rapids Lions Club is a part of this global effort to provide aid at the local level, as well as around the world.”
The donations sent to the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities will help pay for the ongoing research and the treatments performed each day at this world-renowned facility, according to Merriam.
The club meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Coon Rapids VFW on Coon Rapids Boulevard.
For more information or to get involved with the club, contact Dan Janish at 612-558-2851 or visit the club’s website at www.coonrapidslions.org.