A Brief History
In November of 1953 the State Council of Governors appointed a committee to look into the possibility of
having an ongoing project in which all the clubs in the multiple district could participate.
PDG Harold Ashley of the Waterbury Lions Club was named chairman. The committee gathered information on
many projects but found that millions of dollars was being spent on medical care but less than 1% of that
amount was being spent on research. After several meetings with the Yale Medical group, Yale agreed to start
an eye research program if the Lions would fund it. At the 1954 State Convention the idea of a state wide eye
research project was adopted. It took until July of 1956 to get everything in place and on the 20th of July a
charter was issued by the State of Connecticut establishing the Connecticut Lions Eye Research Foundation as
a nonproft Corporation. Hence, the Connecticut Lions Eye Research Foundation (CLERF) was born.
By the Foundations Constitution every member in good standing of every Lions Club in the State of Connecticut
became a member of CLERF. The Board of Directors is made up of a combination of appointments and elected
positions as outlined in that same Constitution. The first year's goal was to raise $15,000. The Lions actually
raised $22,157, giving $19,000 of that to Yale. On July 1st 1961, Dr. Marvin Sears was hired as the full time
Director of Research, and served in that position until July 1,1993. Today the research department is headed
by Dr. M. Bruce Shields, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Opthalmology and Visual Science.
It is interesting to note that Yale set aside a 100 square foot "lab" and provided Dr. Sears with one assistant -
now 38 years later the research facilities at Yale has a staff of over 25 and are housed in their own multimillion
dollar facility, the Boardman Building, which we the Connecticut Lions helped to renovate with a $500,000
donation and where we also maintain our office.
Up until 1991, CLERF had been relying on the annual club donations and Sight Saver Day (formally called Lions
Day or Candy Day) to bring in all of our money. When we needed that extra kick to push the Boardman Building
project over the top we introduced the car raffle. More recently we introduced the Memorial Card Program, the
Recognition Card Program and the CT Lions Open Golf Tournament.
As we looked forward on into the 21st century, we realized that we can only go to the well so many times--in
other words, the clubs can only give so much to CLERF and still be able to do all the things they do in their own
communities. So, with that in mind, we borrowed a basic idea from LCIF and established the 21st Century Fund
and the Knight of the Blind Award. Started in 1991, we hoped the fund would raise $2,100,000 by the year 2000.
This money would be the base endowment for a fund that would insure that we will be able to meet the future
needs of the blind and visually impaired.
With the 21st century appoaching we begin our 45th year of service and have undertaken a new challenge,
Macular Degeneration. For more on this serious subject, please go to our "Current Projects" page.
The Orange CT Lions Club is constantly working on new projects to improve our local
communities here and around the world. We're always working on our next local
project or fund raiser, doing all we can to improve the lives of those in need.
Community Volunteer Work That Makes A Difference
Orange CT Lions Club