Lions to the Rescue

From vision tests to natural disaster aid, Hawai‘i Lions Club is there to help.

There’s a quote from Maya Angelou that Blayne Hanagami, District 50 Hawai‘i Lions Club District Gover-nor, likes to share with members. It goes something like this: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It’s a notion that Hanagami believes resonates with all who volunteer with and donate to the organization. Lions, after all, he says, are not in it for the recognition.

“I guess that selflessness, the way I see it, is kind of the good, warm feeling inside when you know you impacted somebody—when they smile at you, they’re tearing up and they say, ‘Th ank you so much.’ Th at is like 10 times more than any kind of compensation or an award,” says Hanagami, who is based on the Big Island.

For 100 years now, Lions across the world have been doing their part to help those in the communities it serves. District 50, which encompasses the entire state, includes a little more than 1,700 members spread out across all islands, with a majority based on O‘ahu.

Sometimes referred to as “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness”—an issue from Helen Keller, who in 1925 challenged members to focus their efforts on preventable blindness—Lions might best be known for the vision screenings they conduct for keiki. Th e club also holds hearing screenings for children, and recently began focusing its efforts on the environment, diabetes and pediatric cancer, too.

In addition to those five key areas, the club also seeks to simply have a greater impact in the community, finding ways to help in any way it can. Hawai‘i Kai Lions, for example, are working on a Rescue Tube Project to help those who may find themselves in distress at the beach. By using rescue tubes, Lions hope to make it a safer and easier task for anyone attempting to rescue someone who may be drowning— and Hanagami says it already has saved lives.

Lions Club members make themselves available in times of natural disasters, as well. After Tropical Storm Iselle a few years ago, for instance, Lions helped to bring in generators as the community waited for electricity to return, and prepared food and survival kits.

Another initiative Lions undertake: honoring veterans—whether it be through helping Wounded Warrior Project or conducting a ceremonial presentation.

“They allow us to serve the community by giving us the freedom to do that,” says Hanagami.

Perhaps, more importantly, the organization concentrates on fostering the next generation of world leaders. Every year, Hawai‘i Lions welcome roughly 20-25 youth leaders from around the world— places like Croatia, Turkey, Germany and Finland—to show them the aloha spirit.

“We are just convinced that it will certainly be a better world once … we perpetuate international culture and better understanding of diversity,” says Hanagami.

But believe it or not, all of that merely scratches the surface of the many ways Lions tend to the community. So it should come as no surprise that the club could benefit from some extra help.

Of course, it always is looking for more volunteers, especially those willing to dedicate their time to service projects. In fact, Hanagami reports that it may just be the organization’s biggest need right now, considering volunteer numbers in Hawai‘i and throughout the world have been decreasing. Th ose who would like to support the organization also may make a monetary donation to Hawai‘i Lions Foundation, which supports the ongoing efforts of district 50 clubs. Th e organization recently became a partner agency with Aloha United Way, too, which means those who work for companies that support AUW may designate a portion of each paycheck to go directly to Hawai‘i Lions.

Hanagami has been a Lion for 20 years, though he is quick to point out that there are many others who have been involved in the club much longer than that. As the club’s current district governor, he oversees the needs of the organization, focusing on the big picture, so to speak. Putting into words just what it is he enjoys about being a Lion seems an almost impossible task for Hanagami, who jokingly admits that it would take at least an hour for him to answer.

There is, of course, a simple desire to help others. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the Lions Club is just one of those feel-good organizations, as Hanagami puts it. So to better encapsulate how he feels, Hanagami points to another quote, this time from the International Association of Lions Clubs founder Melvin Jones, who said something along the lines of “you won’t get very far until you do something for somebody else.”

“Maybe to someone who is just casually passing through, it may sound a bit corny,” says Hanagami, “but I can tell you that it does impact our lives considerably because they’re all really big-hearted people; they’re always trying to give.”

For more information on District 50 Hawai‘i Lions Clubs and to fi nd out how to get involved, visit

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