Hello, my name is Lion Ed Hashbarger, PDG, I have been a Lion since 1969, and I’ve been a long-time supporter of Leader Dog. Today, I’d like to share the background of why I became a Lion and why I support Leader Dog, Lions Clubs International (LCI) and the Lions Clubs International Foundation.
First, let me explain why I put “Lion” in front of my name and what the “PDG” after my name stands for. I use “Lion” because in the LCI community that is how we address each other. PDG stands for Past District Governor within the Lions organization. Simply put, it means that I was once a District Governor who provided leadership to all the Lions clubs in my area for an entire year.
I grew up in the 50’s, my mother worked at AT&T and my dad worked for E&B Brewing Co. as a delivery driver. If memory serves me right, once while my father was loading and unloading supplies, an empty beer case fell and struck him in or around his right eye. The doctor checked out his eye and everything seemed just fine.
A year or two went by and everything seemed somewhat normal, until one morning my dad got up and yelled that he could not see! His doctor stated that the accident that happened years ago had affected his eyes (of course back then the research was non-existent). The doctor explained that he is permanently blind, and this was of course, devastating.
After losing his vision, my dad lost his job. My parents could no longer afford the house we lived in, we had to move and rent a house. It was extremely hard on my dad, for he had worked since he was a young child. He just could not get over what had happened. What was he going to do? He had to work and help with family bills. Eventually, my parents divorced, this made it difficult for me because I had to split time between parents, one of which was unable to see. This forced me to grow grew up because I had to lead my father around.
Luckily, the State of Michigan had a social program called welfare, this helped my father with living expenses.
Once, I remember my dad got really sick, he had a bad stomach ulcer and I had to take him to the nearest hospital. Believe it or not, we were told that he could not be seen because he had no money. At that time, my dad was in a life-or-death situation. Eventually, we were able to get him admitted to a different hospital and they performed the duties as the first hospital should have done.
Can you imagine not providing help to someone in desperate need? That was part of my experience when growing up.
One day, when I was not able to be around, my dad met a stranger at a hamburger joint. He stated he was with the local Lions club and his name was Phil Saverino. They talked at some length and the gentlemen asked why my dad did not have a dog to assist him. This was a good question!
My dad and Phil met a couple of times before Phil finally convinced my dad to get a guide dog. With the help of the Lions club, dad was able to go to Rochester Hills, Michigan where he was happily greeted by the staff of Leader Dogs for the Blind. He was really surprised on how helpful and courteous everyone was. He learned many things while at Leader Dog, like how to identify paper money. But of course, the most amazing thing was getting his first dog – a German shepherd named Knight. Dad graduated from Leader Dogs for the Blind in 1954. I was around 10 years old.
Upon my dad’s return home, he was amazed when the East Side Lions Club helped him get a cigar stand in one of the local buildings in downtown Detroit. This really uplifted him because now he was able to make a little more money and he was finally working and doing something in life.
One day, someone let his two large dogs loose on my dad’s dog Knight. They did some damage to Knight’s front legs, so he had to be retired. Dad was able to go back to Leader Dog in 1957 to get another German shepherd by the name of King. My father was able to get two more dogs during his lifetime – thanks again to Leader Dogs for the Blind.
When I joined the U. S. Marine Corps, my father thought it was best to move on and went to live near his brothers in Ohio. The Lions Club of Steubenville offered to help him operate a news stand. They even had an article printed in the local paper about him. They also helped him get the traditional blind made brooms and doormats, and printed business cards for him.
Now, I think it is great that there are organizations that take steps to help people in their community. Leader Dogs for the Blind has provided dogs to people around the world – in Europe and as far away as Japan (many years ago), and all U.S. states over the past 80 plus years. Lions Clubs International has gone above and beyond in providing help and assistance to people around the world.
After I came back from overseas and was stationed in Virginia. When I re-enlisted, I was able to pick my next duty station and chose Detroit be it gave me the best chance to finally become a Lion. I was determined to find Lion Phil Saverino who had helped my father so many years ago and ask him about joining the Lions. At that time Phil was a member of the East Side Detroit Lions Club. In November of 1969, Lion Phil became my sponsor, and I finally became a proud Lions member. I hunkered down and really got involved and learned everything I needed to know about Lionism.
I want to honor Lion Phil by sharing some information about him. He became a Lion in 1947 and lived to be 100 years old. Lion Phil served as a District Governor and as the President of the Grosse Pointe Lions Club. But his favorite Lions achievement was serving as Chair of the Leader Dog Kick-off Luncheon, an annual event that raises money for Leader Dog. Incredibly, Lion Phil chaired the event from 1950 to 1999, only stepping down when he was 84 due to health issues.
Phil had firsthand experience with vision loss, he lost his sight in 1994 due to macular degeneration. Phil counted his family and the Lions among his greatest gifts. He would say that the Lord had been really good to him, and he figured he had to give something back.”
Out of the short time that I knew Phil, I did not know how involved he was with Leader Dog. I did not have much time to really get to know him, but I never forgot about him. I must have followed in his footsteps, for I also have been a big supporter of Leader Dogs for the Blind.
Another Lion who was important to me was a man by the name Vincent (Vince) Syracuse. Vince was my dad’s trainer when he went to Leader Dogs for the Blind in 1954 to get his first dog, Knight. Vince worked for Leader Dog for many years serving as an instructor, a bi-lingual instructor and director of training.
Many years later, in 1978, I was a member of the Beaufort Lions Club in District 32-B in South Carolina. At that time South Carolina was not a state support of Leader Dog. So, I contacted Leader Dog and found out that Lion Vince was now a field representative. I was able to get him to come to South Carolina where we both went on a local TV station to talk about Leader Dog. I was also able to get him to speak at one of our cabinet meetings. I tried to convince my district to support Leader Dogs for the Blind and was able to connect Lion Vince with the state council.
Shortly after I was transferred back overseas but found out later that the Lions of South Carolina authorized Leader Dogs for the Blind as a new service project.
Vince was a proud member of the Rochester Lions Club and served as its president in 1960. He received many Lions awards including the Melvin Jones Fellow Award and Lion of the Year Award.
In 1978, I was a member of the Beaufort Lions Club in District 32-B. At the time South Carolina was not a state supporter of Leader Dog. I contacted Leader Dog and was able to get a field representative to come to South Carolina to speak to the Lions. I was also able to get us on the local TV station in Beaufort to talk about Lions and Leader Dog. I tried to convince my District at the time to support Leader Dogs for the Blind and found out later that the Lions of South Carolina authorized Leader Dogs for the Blind as a new service project.
Because of what the Lions did for my dad, I paid attention and eventually joined a Lions club. It made a mark on me, the fact that a Lion cared.
I challenge you to make a mark on someone’s life.
I have tried to do as much as I could as a Lion, and I’m still trying to do more. To everyone reading this, I hope and encourage you to give your all to something.
Leaders Dogs for the Blind was founded by Lions and is still supported by Lions. I donate monthly and I encourage everyone to go to leaderdog.org/donate and become a monthly donor.
Lions Clubs International has many great accomplishments and the Lions Clubs Foundation has done wonderful things around the world. The Foundation sends money to Lions who ensure that the money is used to help people around the world.
Leader Dog would like to share a few interesting statistics about Lion Ed:
– Has been a member of nine Lions clubs in six states and Japan (he moved a lot during his military career)
– Helped create three new Lions clubs in Georgia
– Served as Leader Dog Chair for his district for 14 years
– Served with LCIF for 14 years
– Received many awards including: Lions of the Year, District and State Hall of Fame and the Helping Hands Award
– Traveled to make club visits in California, Michigan, Texas, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Washington DC, Alaska, Japan and more.
To learn more about Lions Clubs International or to find a club in your area, go to https://www.lionsclubs.org/en.