In 1971, the Board of Directors of Lions Clubs International declared that henceforth June 1 would be remembered as "Helen Keller Day." Lions around the world implement sight-related service projects on Helen Keller Day.
Helen KellerBorn Helen Adams Keller on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama, USA, the child developed a fever at 18 months of age. Afterwards, Keller was blind, deaf, and mute.
At age six, teacher Anne Mansfield Sullivan of the Perkins School for the Blind was hired as Keller's teacher. The 20-year-old taught Keller sign language and Braille. The story of the teacher and her pupil has been retold in William Gibson's play and film, "The Miracle Worker."
At age 10, Keller learned to speak. Sarah Fuller of the Horace Mann School was her first speech teacher.
In 1898, Helen entered the Cambridge School for Young Ladies. In the autumn of 1900, Keller entered Radcliffe College. She earned a bachelor of arts degree cum laude in 1904.
Throughout the years, Sullivan remained at her student's side. She formed letters into Keller's hand for comprehension of textbooks, college lectures, and conversation.
Keller's Personal CrusadeIn 1915, Keller joined the first Board of Directors of the Permanent Blind Relief War Fund, later known as the American Braille Press.
In 1924, the young woman started the Helen Keller Endowment Fund. In the same year, Keller joined the staff of the American Foundation for the Blind as a counselor on national and international relations.
On June 30, 1925, Keller addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, USA. She challenged Lions to become "knights of the blind in this crusade against darkness." (Click here to view her entire speech.) She said, "I am your opportunity. I am knocking at your door."
In 1946, Keller became a counselor on international relations for the American Foundation for Overseas Blind (a sister organization to the American Foundation for the Blind). She traveled to 35 countries.
A movie was made of Keller's life. "Helen Keller in Her Story" received the "Oscar" award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for best feature-length documentary film in 1955.
Keller made her last major public appearance in Washington, D.C., USA, in 1961. She received the Lions Humanitarian Award for lifetime service.
Keller died on June 1, 1968 at age 87. Her request to the Lions 43 years earlier inspired Lions Clubs International to adopt the Sight Conservation and Work with the Blind Program as a major service initiative.
Helen Keller Memorial ParkIn 1971, the Lions of Alabama dedicated the Helen Keller Memorial Park. It is located on the grounds of Keller's birthplace which is known as Ivy Green. The focal point of the memorial is a bust of Keller with an engraved plaque which states, "I am your opportunity."