The North Carolina Lions VIP Fishing Tournament is the largest gathering of visually impaired in North Carolina and is believed to be the largest event of its kind in the world. The project has grown from a local tournament serving 12 blind individuals to more than 350 visually impaired persons, 130 sighted guests, and 300 volunteers.
The N.C. Lions VIP Fishing Tournament is the largest public/private partnership for the blind and visually impaired in North Carolina and we believe the United States.
The project brings participants from across North Carolina for three days of recreation, fellowship, and independent living workshops designed to help visually impaired persons (VIPs). Participants arrive on the Outer Banks on a Monday, are housed in local hotels, have 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 300 volunteers follow the same schedule as they assist the VIPs throughout the annual event.
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. Services to the VIPs include education and an extension of the rehabilitation programs provided by the North Carolina Services for the Blind.
Research and development may eventually find a cure for blindness, but there are currently more than 30,000 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.
The N.C. Lions VIP Fishing Tournament, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization defined in section 501 (c) (3) of the IRS code. The board governing this event includes members representing Lions clubs from four counties (Columbia, First Flight, Lower Currituck, Manteo, Nags Head, and Wanchese), a representative appointed by the district governor of District 31-S.
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 Incorporated annually supports the project, last year providing $15,000. Fundraisers, such as the adopt-a-fisherman program, golf ball drop, annual night for sight auction, contributions and similar projects cover expenses of the annual event that can exceed $350,000.
We also had the pleasure of installing a new member, Lion Joe G. tonight. Lion Joe is from New York and was invited by Lion Chip who is his sponsor but was unable to attend the meeting this evening. So Lion Paul Dean (membership chair) is shown pinning Lion Joe while PDG Wayne Faber and President Kathy Faber look on. Welcome Lion Joe!