Lions International is a worldwide organisation with more than one million members, united in their aims under the motto “We serve”. The Galway Lions Club was formed 40 years ago, and since then has been a very active group in helping the less fortunate members of our community. Essentially, what members do is very good work, and they enjoy doing it, but none of it would have been possible without the remarkably generous support of the general public.
Their activities fall under two headings, service and fundraising. Some of the service projects over the years include bringing 50 elderly men and women from Galway each year to Mosney or Trabolgan for a week’s holiday as guests of the club, accompanied by a nurse and volunteer Lions to make sure they fully enjoyed themselves. For a number of years, thanks to the Western Health Board, Lions were involved in timber cutting and delivering many tons of chopped wood to the Vincent de Paul Society.
Christmas is a particularly busy time when the members do Santa Claus parties for various groups, young and old. The annual food appeal (ably supported by the hotel and catering students of GMIT ) helps some 600 families, and they distribute toys to many needy children. As part of this project, soft toys are raffled by pubs and retailers, there are supermarket cash collections, and some 250 donated items are auctioned every year by Keith Finnegan on Galway Bay FM. The Galway club produced a talking newspaper for blind people all over the country for many years, a mixture of interviews, music, poetry, and tips and advice for entitlements for the blind. The Lions organise an annual youth award, various alcohol awareness and suicide awareness programmes, and visitations to the elderly. They have planted trees in Merlin Park, provided seating in South Park and Salthill, and for a number of years engaged in the canal clean-up campaign in addition to other environmental projects.
Imagination and excitement are two ingredients the Lions use in fundraising. The Big Push was a project where members of the Irish Wheelchair Association were pushed by volunteers from Eyre Square to Blackrock and back again, accompanied by a small army of collectors and St Patrick’s Brass Band. This helped to highlight the difficulties experienced by people in wheelchairs while funding the purchase of a number of specially adapted buses for use by the IWA. Our photograph today dates from the mid-70s and shows some of the participants preparing for the off. They are, from the left, Tom Kenny, Michael D Higgins, Austin Gaffney, John Smith, Mayor of Galway Mary Byrne, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Liam Sammon, Danny Griffin, Michael Killilea, Lord Dunraven, president IWA, and Lady Geraldine Dunraven.
The club organised a number of balloon races where balloons were filled with helium and tagged with the sponsor’s name. Balloons were returned from as far away as Czechoslovakia, and Treviso in Italy. They have held race nights, antique auctions, fashion shows, paraplegic games, concerts, golf competitions, etc, with all of the money collected going to local causes. The administration of the club is funded by membership fees. They certainly have lived up to the motto “We serve”. Long may they continue to do so.
In 2007 - 08 Pat Connolly, one of the members, became the district governor of the Lions of Ireland. The club, the largest in the country, is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a reunion dinner in The Ardilaun on Saturday March 24, so any past members who might like to attend should contact Pádraic at 086 253 8576.