Benton Lions Club members became enthusiastic about helping those who cannot see after hearing from Christopher club member Jeff Troutt.
During Thursday’s meeting, Troutt talked about the Leader Dogs for the Blind program, saying the Christopher Lions Club had supported the program for at least the past 43 years since he became a member.
Troutt was introduced by Benton Lion Club member Charles Towle, who said Troutt had law offices in Benton and Christopher.
The two discussed former joint events, including Valentine’s Day dinners and steak nights. Troutt said some Benton Lions Club members had attended the Valentine’s Day dinner held a few years ago. He encouraged Christopher, Benton, West Frankfort and Thompsonville Lions Clubs to meet in joint session to socialize and share ideas and information.
Troutt said the Leader Dogs for the Blind program was founded by three Detroit-area Lions Clubs members in 1939. The program provides guide dogs to people who are blind and visually impaired to enhance their mobility, independence and quality of life.
More than 270 clients annually attend the 26-day residential training program to be paired with a guide dog that is provided free of charge to the client.
He talked about Robert Hall, who received a guide dog while living in Sesser. Troutt said the Christopher Lions Club provided transportation to St. Louis where Hall boarded a plane bound for the training site at Rochester Hills, Mich.
Hall was elated to have a guide dog and spoke to the Christopher Lions Club about his experience with the dog, saying he had improved mobility thanks to having the dog by his side.
Troutt said he followed up with Hall later only to learn that his guide dog and companion had passed away. He said the two were together for 10 years, from 1995 until 2005. Troutt said Hall now resides in West Frankfort and had applied to reenter the program to obtain another leader dog.
He said Hall’s training with the leader dog would be three weeks instead of the customary four weeks because he had been through the training program in the past.
Troutt said Hall wanted to speak to Lions Clubs about his experience with a leader dog, saying the dog had enhanced his life for a period of 10 years. He said Hall’s story is heartwarming and would bring a tear to the eye.
Troutt talked about a professor he met while attending Southern Illinois University, adding that the blind man was one of his top two teachers. He said he admired the man who also had a leader dog.
Troutt said the Christopher Lions Club had also helped another person with a vision impairment. The club continues to work for the betterment of the communities it serves.
Page 2 of 2 - Benton Lions Club president Terry Swift provided a bit of history about the origin of the leader dog program. He said Helen Keller had spoken to a Lions Club and had challenged members to help the blind.
Towle said the Benton Lions Club continues to receive eyeglasses and hearing aids to help those in need.
In other matters, Dave Severin said he is working with Rend Lake College on a website to provide information to coaches and players about the March 30 All-Star Basketball Games being played at Rend Lake College. The selection process is in the final phase, he said, adding that 30 girls and 30 boys from schools across Southern Illinois would be invited to participate.
Severin said money raised during the annual basketball games is applied to scholarships to high school seniors who attend Rend Lake College.