Next weekend, more than 125 artisans from across the nation will assemble on the Sanibel Community House grounds for a two-day exhibition of fine painting and sculpture, photography, hand-crafted furniture, jewelry, wearable art and much more.
“The Lions Arts & Crafts Fair is, of course, our largest fundraiser of the year, and all the charitable activities of the Sanibel-Captiva Lions depend on the success of the fair,” said Arts & Crafts Fair Chairman Bill Sadd, noting that many of the Lions charitable activities support and promote the organization’s core mission.
“The Lions’ mission has been for many years to eliminate preventable blindness, and the vision screenings we’ve been doing since the fall of 2008 are directed at trying to accomplish just that,” said San-Cap Lions Screening Team member Tom Rothman. “Glaucoma, for example, is a very insidious disease — you may not know you even have it or recognize the symptoms. We test for peripheral vision loss and measure the intraocular pressure of the eye, and out of the couple hundred islanders screened, we’ve referred more than 30 percent for glaucoma.”
Approximately 15 percent of islanders screened by the San-Cap Lions team, Rothman noted, were referred to their physicians for further diabetes testing.
“You don’t want to find problems with people — but if they do have problems, you want to find them early, especially in specially children, who sometimes go into school not realizing that they aren’t hearing or seeing things correctly. The earlier you find it, the easier it is to fix it,” Rothman said. “The Screening Team is made up of very dedicated people, and they’re so willing to get involved. It’s a way for us to pay back the island people that support us. This has been our love and our mission, and we want to help the islands in any way we can.”
But to do that, the Sanibel-Captiva Lions need a bit of help from the community.
The San-Cap Lions Screening Team — made up of Rothman, Bruce Avery, jim Graham, Tom Krekel, Dr. Nilou Peters, Dr. Kurt Peters, Dr. Phil Marks, Susie Marks, Dick Travis, Bill Sartoris and George Veilette — were trained by pediatric ophthalmologist and Naples Lions Club President Dr. Howard Freedman, but had to began their screening program with a miniscule budget and equipment borrowed from other Southwest Florida Lions Clubs.
But over the past two years, the Lions have managed to purchase — thanks to funds raised by events such as the Arts & Crafts Fair — two very sophisticated, and therefore expensive, screening instruments for permanent use on the islands.
Although, just because the Sanibel-Captiva Lions’ monthly screenings at the focus on helping islanders young and old, that doesn’t mean the San-Cap Lions’ good charity stops at the end of the causeway.
“We’re currently talking about ways in which we can expand the screening program,” Rothman said, “and we’re already doing some screenings off-island. We’ve gone down to Immokalee with other Lions clubs where we scan migrant workers and their families. We can screen between 300 and 400 people a day.”
The Sanibel-Captiva Lions Screening Program alternates free vision and hearing and diabetes screenings at the Sanibel Recreation Center every month, but the money the Lions raise next weekend will also go to support many other local charities, including FISH of Sanibel, Friends Who Care, college scholarships for local and disabled students, Brightest Horizons, the Florida Lions Foundation for the Blind and, of course, the Southeastern Guide Dogs, one of the San-Cap Lions biggest recipients.
“This year, the Southeastern Guide Dogs will have a booth at the Arts & Crafts fair, and having representatives from this great organization at the fair will give the public a great opportunity to learn about their very important programs, particularly ‘Paws for Patriots,’ which provides guide dogs for wounded veterans, including those that are affected with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
And for just $4, the suggested donation for admission — good for both Friday and Saturday — fair-goers and art lovers can do their part in supporting the Lions’ mission and various causes.
“We encourage everyone to come to the fair and have a good time, help great causes and learn about the Lions’ many charitable organizations,” Sadd said.
During the Arts & Crafts Fair, the Lions will also raffle off a beautiful necklace donated by Lily & Company Jewelers. Raffle tickets cost $2 per ticket or $5 for a three ticket pack.
The San-Cap Lions 28th annual Arts & Crafts Fair is sponsored by Lily & Co. Jewelers, Doc Ford’s, Wayne Wiles Floor Coverings, Bailey’s General Store, LCEC, Veolia, Hillgate Communications, Island Graphics and Island Sun.
The Sanibel Community House is located at 2173 Periwinkle Way. JANE BRICKLEY
For more information about the Sanibel-Captiva Lions Club, go towww.SanibelCaptivaLions.org.