Lionism began in the Cayman Islands in 1972 with the charter of the Lions Club of Grand Cayman. Lion Les Ward of Kingston, Jamaica, was visiting his friend Mr. Thomas (“Mr. Tommy”) Hurlston in Grand Cayman when the idea of starting a club on the island was birthed, and he encouraged Mr. Tommy to recruit prospective members from his circle of business friends to establish the club. A total of 50 men were recruited and on October 6, 1972, the Lions Club of Grand Cayman was sanctioned to be duly formed by Lions Club International with the induction of these charter members. Lion Tommy was chosen as its charter president. Initially the Club met and held meetings wherever they could, in borrowed conference rooms, restaurants, private homes, etc. In 1978, Lion Wilford Ryan donated a parcel of land located on Crew Road for the purpose of erecting a building so that the Club could have its own meeting place. The Club later purchased an adjoining parcel of land from Lion Wilford who again donated another adjoining piece, and with its in-house labour, the den known today as the Lions Community Centre was built. The property was frequently used for outdoor concerts until the Club subsequently built the covered structure as it stands today. The original club house still exists today and is still being used as the meeting place for the three local clubs on Grand Cayman.
The Lions Club of Grand Cayman adopted Lions Club International’s signature project, Sight Conservation and began sight screening in schools throughout the islands shortly after its charter and subsequently built the Eye Clinic located at the George Town Hospital. Over the years, the Club assisted the community in various ways (and too many to mention) but included building and repairing homes for the elderly and needy, distributing Christmas gifts and baskets annually to the needy and under-privileged children, sponsoring the Big Brother/Big Sister program, Lions Quest (a school-based programme where the children learn rules for living and learning, the ills of society e.g drugs and negative friends) etc., and Lions Spelling Bee Quiz, just to name a few. The Club also began sponsoring swim meets for primary and high school children on Grand Cayman, and later on, on Cayman Brac. For this purpose it subsequently built its own swimming pool located adjacent to the Truman Bodden Sports Complex, and is rightly named The Lions Aquatic Centre.
In1974, the Lions Club of Grand Cayman sponsored the youth arm of the Club, the Leo Club of Grand Cayman, to cater to younger people who were interested in community service. It began with 26 members with Leo Donovan McField as its charter president.
In an effort to widen its scope of lionism in the Islands, the Lions Club of Grand Cayman also sponsored the Lions Club of Cayman Brac to carry out the mission of Lions International in the sister islands. The Cayman Brac Club was chartered on November 8, 1985, with 21 members. Its charter president was Lion Dural Grant. The Club performs social service type projects like assisting with house repairs, distributing gifts to the elderly and children, especially at Christmas, replanting trees in the community to name a few. It also partners with the Lions Club of Tropical Gardens in its breast cancer awareness drive, hosting an annual Breast Cancer Walk on the Brac.
The ideal of an international organization is exemplified by our enduring relationship with the United Nations. We were one of the first nongovernmental organizations invited to assist in the drafting of the United Nations Charter and have supported the work of the UN ever since.
In the late 1950s, we created the Leo Program to provide the youth of the world with an opportunity for personal development through volunteering. There are approximately 144,000 Leos and 5,700 Leo clubs in more than 140 countries worldwide.
Through SightFirst, Lions are restoring sight and preventing blindness on a global scale. Launched in 1990, Lions have raised more than $346 million for this initiative. SightFirst targets the major causes of blindness: cataract, trachoma, river blindness, childhood blindness, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.
Lions Clubs International extends our mission of service every day – in local communities, in all corners of the globe. The needs are great and our services broad, including sight, health, youth, elderly, the environment and disaster relief. Our international network has grown to include more than 206 countries and geographic areas.