The Reston Lions Club celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Hidden Creek Country Club in Reston on Wednesday, June 7.
“Our actual charter date is May 12 , but June 7  is the actual birthday of Lions Club International,” Chuck Griffith, vice president of the Reston Lions Club, said during the celebration. “It was a 100 years ago to date in a ballroom that the existing clubs approved the constitution and bylaws to join forces to create the organization we know today.”
The century-old Lions Club International, with 46,000 combined clubs across the globe with more than 1.4 million members, gives the organization the position to claim that it is the world's largest service club organization.
THE 50-YEARS-OLD Reston Lions Club is a group of men and women who volunteer in Reston, Herndon, Great Falls, Chantilly and Oak Hill. While the group is involved in numerous projects, initiatives and fundraisers, it is best known for its work helping the blind and visually impaired through its free sight and hearing screenings and eyeglass recycling.
Its passion for hearing and vision is no coincidence. The mission goes back to the club’s roots.
In 1925, Helen Keller addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, and challenged its members to become "knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness."
Since then, the organization’s clubs around the world have worked to aid the blind and visually impaired.
Sally Kenavan became a Lion when she moved to Stafford in 2001. She found community in the club and became an involved and engaged participant, making her way to serve as the governor of the Lions of Virginia District 24-A region this year.
“I was the new person in town,” Kenavan said. “I was invited to join some activities and from there, I just decided that I wanted to be a Lion.”
Kenavan said she and everyone in the room that evening celebrating the anniversary dedicated their time to help others and were better off for it. It was through her service that she met her husband, Tom.
And it’s through her service with the club that she gets to carry on meeting the challenge that was given to the organization so many years ago to help the visually impaired.
“I am delighted to be here across the border, into Reston,” Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel, joked in her remarks to the crowd of Lions. “I am just delighted to be in front of so many stewards of volunteerism who make things happen in our community.”
The mayor told the audience that she was delighted that the Reston Lions Club helped establish a club for students at Herndon High School. These students, known as Leos, participate in the Lions Club International’s Leo Club Program.
“The young men and women in the club at Herndon High School are making such a difference in their community at such a young age,” Merkel said. “I just want to tell you how impressed I am with all that you all have done.”
Many of the students who are part of the Leo Club are recent immigrants, according to Anne Ryan, who is in charge of membership for the Reston Lions Club and advises the club’s Leo groups.
The students often have big ideas that they bring to the big-hearted group of Leos and Lions.
Surabhi Khanal, who will be attending Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., in the fall, started her own nonprofit organization, MedLove, Inc. The organization seeks to provide survivors of human trafficking with medical help and social support, hence its name: “Med,” “Love.”
While she is at school, she will be serving as her university’s president of the Cyber Leo Club, which provide volunteer and leadership opportunities to Leos while they are in college.
DEL. KEN PLUM (D-36) also joined the celebration and made remarks about the club’s work over the years and his experience volunteering alongside its members.
“I have been very impressed over the years, for many years, with the work of the Lions Club here in Reston and the Herndon area,” Plum said during the event. “After that experience in southwest Virginia, I’m doubly impressed.”
He was speaking about helping with the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps in Wise, Va. RAM’s yearly clinic in Wise provides those in need with free health care. Members of the Reston Lions Club travel to Wise to volunteer for the three-day event each summer.
“It’s a very poor region,” Plum said. “When I got there on Thursday to help set up that weekend of activity, I left about 7 o’clock in the evening and the clinic wasn’t open until 7 o’clock in the morning. When I drove out, there was a mile-and-a-half of cars of people in their cars waiting to get into the clinic the next morning. That’s how desperate situations are.”
He applauded the group for their efforts to serve each summer in Wise and for recognizing that people are in need in their own community in Fairfax County.
“Not just in Wise County, in fact in our own community, there are people who don’t have the resources they need to live a quality life that they might enjoy,” Plum said. “And you’ve made up the difference in many ways.”
Members of the Reston Lions Club’s Mobile Health Screening Van program will be conducting free vision and hearing screenings for both children and adults at Herndon's Friday Night Live! outdoor concert series this summer, which runs through Aug. 25.
Adults: Reston Lions Club Officers
President Steve Reber
Vice President Chuck Griffith
Secretary/Treasurer Jim Ryan
Membership Anne Ryan
Immediate Past President/Lion Tamer Patrick McCann
Tail Twister Don Leas
One-Year Director Jack Gazlay
Two-Year Director Joe Rohrbaugh
High School Students: Herndon Community Leo Club
College Students: Cyber Leo Club
President Mehar Nasir
Vice President Subani Adhikari
Secretary/Treasurer Sujal Sigdel
Northern Virginia Community College Satellite President Manal Khan
University of Mary Washington Satellite President Sujata Shakya
William & Mary Satellite President Mehar Nasir
University of Virginia Satellite Presidents Sujal Sigdel and Subani Adhikari
Virginia Commonwealth University Satellite President Aakriti Poudel
Emory University Satellite President Surabhi Khanal