100 Years is a lot of history!!

We've been cleaning out storage closests, going through old records and sharing our favorite Lions stories as we prepare for our 100th Celebration. Here are just a few gems that we wanted to share with all of you!

Historical Highlight #7: A Life Changing Eye Surgery Story from the Ballard Lions Club

This post is a long one, friends. But it's SUCH A GOOD STORY!

Gerry and Nohra Giraldo have a special memory about one very important eye surgery that the Ballard Lions Club made possible.  And their memory was captured in this beautiful article published in the Westside Seattle newsletter in February 2006.
“When the bandages came off and Miguel Flores opened his new right eye for the very first time, he saw the two people he loved most.
"I saw my parents first. They looked happy and were smiling. My mom cried. I was amazed," said Flores, a Ballard High School student who underwent a cornea transplant on November 23.
Another emotional moment came a few weeks later, when Flores held a picture of a 20-year-old University of Washington student who died in a car accident.
Flores could not help but stare at the young man's right eye. "I saw his picture. He was the one who donated the cornea to me. It touched me when I saw his picture," said Flores.
He wrote a letter to the young man's parents. "I told them about me and said I was very thankful. I have a gift to cherish everyday and I think of them everyday," said Flores.
Since the age of eight, Flores has had problems in both of his eyes.
"With time, it was getting worse. The prognosis was he was going to end up blind. They operated on his worse eye," said Ballard Lions member Ted Peterson, who walked the Flores family through the paper work and medical procedures.
Peterson is fluent in Spanish and uses that ability to communicate with Flores' father Josue, who emigrated from Mexico.
The Ballard High School junior wore extremely thick glasses to make up for his bad eyesight. This led to teasing by fellow students who called him "four eyes." The mean spirited taunts caused him to skip school all together at one point.
"He did not want to come to school. He hated school. He felt bad. He could not see the blackboard and people teased him," Nohra Giraldo, his teacher in the Proyecto Saber program that assists Hispanic students.
"He was very angry. I never saw him smile. He was sad and angry at the same time. He answered questions in a harsh tone," said Giraldo.
The Flores family lives in West Seattle. Flores leaves his home each day at 6 a.m. and rides two buses to get to Ballard. His father works for a catering service and did not have the income to pay for the operation.
The opportunity came when Giraldo invited Ted Peterson of the Ballard Lions to visit her class. Peterson set up appointments for ten of Giraldo's Hispanic students who had vision problems and took them to Lens Crafters in Northgate to have their eyes examined.
Nine students received free glasses, paid for by the Ballard Lions.
Flores' problem was worse than the others. He was advised to see an ophthalmologist. The Ballard Lions paid for an examination at Eye Associates Northwest where he was examined by Dr. Thomas Gillette.
Flores had a condition called Keratoconus. "His cornea was marred and cone shaped. They suggested surgery," said Peterson.
Eye Associates Northwest and the Swedish Medical Center teamed up and agreed to do the $16,000 surgery for $6,500.
"It was a fantastic reduction in price," said Peterson.
The Northwest Lions Foundation for Sight and Hearing split the cost of the operation with the Ballard Lions. The cornea came from the foundation's eye bank.
The surgery only took 45 minutes. "It scared me. It was sad, taking my eye out and getting the cornea of another person," said Flores.
The benefits of the cornea transplant will last Flores entire life.
"He came to school Monday with a big smile. He talked to the kids and they applauded. Now he is a completely changed kid," said Giraldo
Before the surgery, Giraldo said Flores would hold books close to his face in order to read the words. Now his grades are getting better and he is doing well in class.
As far as subjects go, Flores likes science and history. His first love is art and he is developing that talent through a mail order correspondence course.
"We have seen an improvement in his homework and his writing. He takes less time to do it and is more organized. He's a good kid who works hard," said Giraldo.
"It has changed my life. It's a big change. I'm very happy now. I can do my homework and not have to look close," said Flores.
"The Lions helped me a lot. He (Peterson) is always there for me. He was a big help," said Flores. "I'm very thankful for God first, the family who gave the donation, the Ballard Lions and the doctors. I hope God will give them blessing," said Miguel Flores, speaking in Spanish.
"I will be thankful forever," he said.”


Historical Highlight #7: A Lions Club Memory from Bill Tsoukalas

“My best memory was being elected as incoming President of our club and attending the Lions International Conference in Taipei, Taiwan. I had never flown overseas and was apprehensive about traveling that far. On the day of departure several club members met me at Sea-Tac airport to wish me luck. I was told at the ticket counter there were problems with my reservation. I still don’t know today whether the reservation issue was real or intentionally arranged by Lion Kermit Alskog as a joke since he had made the reservations for my wife Judy and I. The positive outcome was Kermit came to the rescue with first class tickets which I’m sure he already had in his possession. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip with stops in Hong Kong and Tokyo.”
(Bill Tsoukalas, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club)

Historical Highlight #6: The Auction


This is a key part of our Lions Club history.




For decades the Annual Auction was a fixture on the University Lions Club calendar. In 1972 is was decided that in place of many small fundraising events, the club would concentrate it’s efforts on just one and the University Lions People and Community Auction was created. The first auction was held in the Washington Plaza Hotel on April 29th with over 300 attendees enjoying a gourmet dinner and a silent auction that featured everything from a hand-decorated mailbox to a wide selection of skis.

And ever since that first event, for the University Lions springtime meant auction time. The event was hosted faithfully right up until March 2020, when a global pandemic cancelled this and so many other events. Some of the silent auction items that you will see featured in the “mini-auction” at our 100th Anniversary celebration are items that were donated for the 2020 auction. At last we can honor our donors generosity.

Historical Highlight #5: The Lake City Lions
Our celebration of 100 years wouldn't be complete without a tribute to the Lake City Lions Club.  This club merged with the University-Ballard Lions Club inf 2023 and they brought with them a long, proud legacy of Lions service.

The Lake City Lions Club were founded in 1940, and one of the first projects that they took on was the establishment of the Lake City Youth Center, later to be known as the Lake City Community Center. 

Beginning in 1941, the newly formed Lake City Lions campaigned for a community center to meet the recreational needs of the citizens. In October 1957, the Lions and 32 other organizations were able to dedicate the Lake City Community Center on NE 125th Street, a block west of Lake City Way. The Lake City Lions Club constructed the earliest portion of this large building between 1954 and 1957 for use as a community club building. After the City of Seattle acquired the building in 1964, it was substantially enlarged and renovated over the next year. The center became the site of a new branch library in 1965 and a little city hall in 1974.

Historical Highlight #4: Lion Donna Oiland Remembers White Cane Days
“I started working at the Lions EyeBank and working with Lions July 5, 1972. The Lions had started the Eye Bank, raised money to support the work and it was in the Department  of Ophthalmology at the UW Medical School. 

The way the Lions raised funds was on White Cane Days, usually the first Weekend in May was All the clubs in Washington and Northern Idaho would hand out lapel white canes with a label on them and ask for donations.  It was amazing.

The local foundation, Lions Sight Conservation, was responsible for getting the plastic canes and labels from a national source, dividing up the supplies and sending them to clubs throughout the region.   This was a huge project and the University Lions Club was right in the middle of the whole thing.

We had a member named Charlie Hancock, a character!  Charlie had a business called Slope Indicator.  The supply of canes would be sent to Charlie.  He would store them and then a couple of months before White Cane Days Lions from clubs in our district would gather for a party at Slope Indicator and organize materials to go to clubs around the state and Northern Idaho. 

A few months after I started working with the Lions I was invited to the party.  There were seasoned veterans there, lots of them, and I was mostly observing and mixing drinks!  I had never mixed drinks before so when people requested a rum and coke I made that for them.  Unfortunately no one was monitoring my bar tending and I was mixing half and half rum and coke.  Close to the end of the evening the party got a little wild and several Lions had to go home in cabs!”


Historical Highlight #3: Ballard Lions Club

Originally organized under the sponsorship of the University Lions Club, the Ballard Lions Club was launched in October 1925 with 43 charter members. It was the 3rd club to be chartered in Seattle after the Downtown Central and University Clubs. And this club hit the ground running!

Just a few examples of Ballard Lions projects from the early years include:
• Purchased a house in Warm Beach to provide shelter for needy families.
• Purchased a beach area north of Marysville, then cleared & developed a camp ground with cabin which was turned over to the Boy & Girl Scouts.
• Raised funds for the building of a new Ballard Hospital.
• Gifted the Ballard Swedish Hospital with a Neo-Natal Hearing Screening Machine.


Historical Highlight #2: Hawaii 2000




Bouncing forward in time quite a bit.  Here’s a bit of Lions paraphernalia that we pulled out of the storage unit. Any local Lions out there remember the Hawaii 2000 convention? 

Historical Highlight #1: University Lions Club
Founded in 1924, the University Lions Club was the 2nd Lions Club to be chartered in Seattle. Here’s a memory recorded in the 1964 University Lion’s newsletter about those early years:

“First meeting place as mezzanine of Rogers Candy store and restaurant, 4339 University Way. The 32 charter members filled the low-ceilinged small room to capacity. It was real chummy but club growth made advisable moving to the only other possible location in the 20s, the Wilsonian. Here we met until the Meany was built in 1931.

First community-service project was Easter Egg Hunt, April 1925 in Ravenna Park. It rained that morning but dried in time for hundreds of kids to turn out.

 “Singingest Club” we were often called. Community singing led  by Ray Eckmann was a must every meeting. On our songbook cover were the words “birds of prey never sing” and except for one or two perhaps, there were no buzzards in our club.”





Lions Clubs International News
Connect with Us Online