“The Power of We”

Lions of Virginia Multiple District 24 Virginia Delegation

2017 LCI International Convention

Chicago, Illinois


       The 2017 LCI International Convention was held from June 29 through July 4 in Chicago, Illinois, the birthplace of the Lions Club.  Over 30,000 Lions from all parts of the globe in more than 200 nations, assembled to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lionism!  The weather, although swelteringly hot in some locations, was unseasonably pleasant the entire week!

       Arriving by charter bus from Virginia, we descended on the windy city on Friday, June 29, eager to get settled into our hotels and begin exploring the city.  The Virginia delegation, for the most part, was stationed at the Hyatt Downtown Magnificent “Mag” Mile, while my roommate and I were housed at the Intercontinental Chicago Mag Mile.  Upon entering our hotel, we were greeted with a huge digital sign bearing the Lions logo welcoming home all Lions Clubs to Chicago.  After a 14-hour bus ride, we were ready to stretch our legs.  It wasn’t long before we found a cozy little pizza place, Labriola Café & Ristorante, not far from the hotel, where we engaged the waitress to order the infamous deep dish Chicago pizza, which was absolutely scrumptious.  It was dark outside and, not being familiar with the area, we headed back to the hotel to review the next day’s schedule.

        We called the desk for a wake-up call at 6:30am since we wanted to be at McCormick Place Convention Center by 9:00am to pick up our credentials packet with our nametag, convention schedule, Centennial pin, and other necessary information.  The convention center was abuzz with the activity of thousands of Lions delegates as we sought to find the correct place to get processed.  The lines were very long and meandering, but moved quickly, particularly for those already registered.  It was great to see people from so many nations!  It made me very proud to be a Lion, and that’s how I felt all week!

       After retrieving our packets, we sought to find our way around the convention center that has 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, 1.2 million square feet all on one level, making it the nation's largest convention center, and I’m sure we must have walked the length of it each day of the convention!   It included exhibit and meeting spaces, ballrooms, theatres, linked by pedestrian promenades and sky bridges, containing retail shops and other visitor amenities, like food courts, clothing, and specialty shops.  We wandered around until we found the food court, grabbed a bite to eat, and then continued up the escalators to the exhibit halls.

       What a spectacular display of LCI activities throughout the South Exhibit Hall A on level 3.  The overhead and eye-level signage left no room for error in finding whatever you were looking for.  The Exhibit Hall included a Centennial Exhibit Theatre in 7 languages, a Performance Stage, Smart USB Training Classes, 57 exhibitors, Club Supplies Store, Environmental Photo Contest, Peace Poster Display, International Stamp Club, Pin Traders, Photography Souvenir Photos, food vendors, and Post Office for all your postal needs, where you could save on baggage fees by sending items home by post.  In addition, there was a large raffle drum for collecting names of conference attendees next to two grand prizes of a blue 750 Street Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a 2017 Chevrolet.  Prizes also included paid trips to the 2018 Las Vegas Convention as well as paid registrations for same.  Throughout the Convention Center and Exhibit Hall, one hundred twenty seminars, sessions, and special events were held daily.  In addition, there were about 40 incredibly amazing Leo drawings on the theme of LCI Forward:  Our vision is to be the global leader in community and humanitarian service.

       The exhibitors represented the nations of Africa, Australia, China, India, Japan, Nepal, The Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, the United States.  They sold everything from Lions paraphernalia, including apparel, blazers, polo shirts, ponchos, sweaters, scarves, belts, pins, jewelry, toys, handcrafts, art, banners, trophies, hand-knotted rugs, brooms, mops, water filters, flags and flag poles, and skin products.  Lions were available to explain high-tech products aimed at restoring sight, preventing blindness and hearing loss, building modern websites, e-trading for charity, 3D massage technology for relieving stress, and indoor playground structures for all ages.  Unique fundraising ideas were featured like FLIGHT, an exhibition basketball team, as well as gourmet nuts, dried fruits, trail mixes, and chocolate confections.

       Other more recognizable Lions organizations in the exhibit hall included the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Canine Companions for Independence, Leader Dogs for the Blind, and the Eye Bank of the U.S.  Exhibits that caught my attention included Sprint Captel, which gives those with hearing loss the ability to make and receive phone calls by providing real-time captions of conversation, the National Beep Baseball Association which helps youngsters stay physically fit, Mobility Worldwide, which brings the gift of mobility to those in developing countries who cannot walk, and a VIP Fishing Tournament for the blind.

       There were ample places where you could stage photo opps, including a backdrop of Wrigley Field, a view of Las Vegas for the 2018 International Convention, a supersized inflatable Lion with a removable Lions torch near the story of Melvin Jones and the wall of International Lions Presidents, waist-high 100th Centennial blocks that you could stand behind featuring a replica of the LCI headquarters Lions statue, and an area at the back of the Exhibit hall that had a podium with the Melvin Jones’ signature signage, “Where there’s a need, there’s a Lion,” flanked by two Lions with a #LIONS100 blocks overhead, where you could stand individually or with a group while a Lions volunteer snapped your photo.

       Day after day, I was drawn back to the Performance Stage, where singers and dancers from many nations performed indigenous songs and dances.  I was greatly impressed by one young pianist from Japan who performed like a virtuoso – he could easily have won the Bland Instrumental Contest!

       On Saturday at 7:00am, we left the hotel to go to the staging area for the LCI International Centennial Parade where thousands of Lions Clubs from 220 nations were gathered, many dressed in native costumes, some of which were made especially for the 100th anniversary of Lions.  It wasn’t until we started walking in the parade that we saw the thousands of spectators along the parade route.  Many clubs handed out flags, fans, or pins from their District Governors, their state or their nation.

       On Tuesday afternoon, having spent the past three days attending seminars on various topics, including Why Lions Leave and How We Can Retain Them, LCI Forward:  Our Path Ahead,  Club Extension and Membership Growth, ow We an Retain Them, Establsih your Club’s ?Brand ohn Social Media, LC:  Club Quality nitative, MyLC¨ Tools Today and the Vision for Tomorrwo, Establish Your Club’s Brand on Social Media, MyLCI:  Tools for Today and the Vision for Tomorrow, my roommate and I decided to go on a river cruise highlighting the City’s architecture.  Our concierge explained the history of the First Lady cruises, and we decided that this would be a good way to spend a beautiful afternoon.  We proceeded to the dock at Michigan and E. Wacker and boarded the Classic Lady for the cruise.  Our tour was led by a docent of the Chicago Architecture Foundation and, for the next two hours, we were regaled with stories of architects and building projects from commercial, to historically inspired, to art-deco, to mid-20th century, to post-modern, to contemporary, and more.  We learned that all docents are volunteers and receive hundreds of hours of training.  They are all from various backgrounds—teachers, attorneys, doctors, engineers, and architects.

       That evening, we returned to the Convention Center for the opening international show which featured the Beach Boys, an iconic rock band dating from the early 60’s, who are known for their songs about girls, guys, surfing, and cars.  It had people bopping to the beat in their seats as well as dancing in the aisles!

       As much as I enjoyed attending seminars, sessions, special events, and the Exhibit Hall, they paled in comparison to the Plenary Sessions on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  These were truly spectacular!  There was so much excitement and enthusiasm in North Exhibit Hall B where the plenary sessions were held as the delegates assembled.  The atmosphere was charged with electricity and with great anticipation, and the planners of the event did not disappoint!  Videos of Lions’ global service projects, meetings and conferences, the LCI Lion asking people on the street questions about Lionism, the founder of Lions Clubs Melvin Jones, as well as the history of Chicago.  The plenary sessions combined Lions’ convention business narrated by International Chancellor Bob Corlew, introducing and interviewing speakers and groups!

       The opening plenary session featured a Beatles cover band, American English, a speech by former Vice President Al Gore on climate change that ties in with the Lions environmental efforts, the centennial torch-lighting ceremony, songs by opera singer Edward Lee along with a laser light show, a Chicago gospel choir performance, and the international flag ceremony completed the evening -- it was magnificent as yellow and purple confetti filled the air, dispersed from rocket-like canisters near the stage.

       The second plenary session included a performance by the Blue Brothers Revue, an address by former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, LCIF update on Lions projects around the world, a performance by David Archuleta from American Idol fame, and the Africa Children’s Choir dazzled and amazed with their singing and dancing.  Topping off the evening was a performance by Chicago, one of the world’s most successful rock groups of all time, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.

       The third plenary session on July 4th opened with the Charlie Daniels band, saluting the international president’s state of Tennessee, followed by a presentation of the Humanitarian Award to Stan Brock, founder of Remote Area Medical, a keynote speech by Patti LaBelle, world-famous singer and Grammy winner, who spoke about how she deals with being a diabetic, including fabulous nutrition tips, a memorial to all Past International Presidents who passed away this year, administering the oath of office to the new International President, as well as inducting the 2017-18 district governors, including our District Governor 24A Dr. Sally B. Kenavan, a reenactment of the plea by Helen Keller’s great grandniece Keller Johnson-Thompson for Lions to be  Knights of the Blind, a performance by the Mandala Art Dancers, and concluded with extinguishing the centennial torch.

       The convention ended around mid-day, leaving time to pack our luggage for the trip home and to scout out a place to watch the fireworks.  We grabbed a bite to eat at Bongiorno’s, a local eatery with a 5-star rating, on the outside patio adjacent to the Trump Tower and the Chicago River.  Then we walked to Millennial Park to listen to the Grant Park Orchestra Salute to Independence Day at the Pritzker Pavilion.  I walked to the Navy Pier and returned to the hotel via the Riverwalk.  Families and couples had positioned themselves to watch the fireworks extravaganza along the River – we saw them, when we walked to get the morning shuttle to McCormick Place, with their children and coolers filled with goodies to stake out a place for the evening’s festivities.

       The next morning, we boarded our charter bus for the trip home.  Some time later, we arrived a little weary from the ride, but energized and excited to tackle the next Lion Year of serving in our communities.  Congratulations to all newly-elected officers for LY 2017-2018 as we go forth in a concerted effort, recognizing that through the “Power of We,” that we can attain so much more.

       My sincere congratulations to the host club MD 1 Illinois, the Executive and Administrative Officers, International Directors, and anyone else involved for their hard work and dedication in making this Centennial event a great experience for all Lions!

       Until next year in Las Vegas, yours in Lionism,

Region 5 Zone 9 Chair Carol Byers

Aquia Evening Lions Club

P.O. Box 307

Stafford, VA  22555


Lions Clubs International is the world's largest service club organization with more than 1.4 million members in approximately 46,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the world.

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