Past District Governor Wayne Faber was our guest speaker this evening. He presented two of North Carolina Lions programs that he happens to chair for District 31-S this year. The second was on the V.I.P. Fishing Tournament.
The project brings in 525 participants from across North Carolina for three days of recreation, fellowship, and independent living workshops designed to help visually impaired persons (VIPs). It is the largest gathering of visually impaired in North Carolina and is believed to be the largest event of its kind in North America. Services to the VIPs include education and an extension of the rehabilitation programs provided by the North Carolina Services for the Blind. Through educational and recreational activities, the VIPs are provided opportunities to eliminate negative attitudes often associated with blindness and to accommodate their need to enter mainstream America. Research and development may eventually find a cure for blindness, but there are currently more than 20,000 visually impaired people in the Tar Heel state. The VIP program touches the lives of a small percentage of those persons who are attempting to conform to a world of the sighted. Tournament officials recognize the need to build support and a financial base for the project. In-kind services secured locally and statewide help offset the annual costs. The North Carolina Lions Foundation annually supports the project, last year providing $15,000. The Foundation has agreed to match this grant with 25 percent of the participant’s cost share. Fund-raisers, such as the adopt-a-fisherman program, contributions and smaller projects cover expenses of the annual event that can exceed $150,000. Participants arrive on the Outer Banks on a Monday, are housed in local hotels, have six meals, go fishing on two head boats and four ocean fishing piers for a day of recreation, participate in seminars and independent living training, and visit with vendors. The closing awards banquet on Wednesday offers motivation and awards. More than 150 volunteers follow the same schedule as they assist the VIPs throughout the annual event. The project has grown from a local tournament serving 12 blind children to the 550 participants of today. The non-profit board governing this event includes members representing Lions clubs from two counties (Columbia, Currituck, First Flight, Lower Currituck, Manteo, Nags Head, Plymouth and Wanchese), a representative appointed by the district governor of District 31-J, a North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind representative, and Sid Scruggs, a North Carolina native and a vice president of Lions Clubs International. Scruggs serves as a liaison with Lions International.
VIDEO LINK to see more about the V.I.P. Fishing Tournament