St Joseph's School pupil Nathaniel Ellis (6), blind from
birth, shows Lions Clubs International president Wayne
Madden, of the United States, his new skills with a white
cane at the Queenstown school yesterday. Photo by James
A boy born blind demonstrated his new skills with a white
cane yesterday to the president of the largest service club
organisation in the world.
St Joseph's School pupil Nathaniel Ellis (6) had become a
popular member of the Queenstown school since he enrolled in
the middle of last term, principal Trisch Inder said.
It was exciting for Nathaniel to learn to use his cane and
braille because it encouraged his independence, she said.
Nathaniel and his classmates were visited by Lions Clubs
International president Wayne Madden and wife Linda, both of
Indiana, United States, with international director Sheryl
Jensen and club member and husband Kevin Jensen, both of
Rotorua, and school board trustee Phil Wilson, of Queenstown,
to see how the boy was progressing.
Deaf-blind American suffragette Helen Keller challenged the
Lions of America in 1925 to become "knights of the blind" and
appealed for them to "crusade against darkness".
The organisation's volunteers have supported eye care and
worked to prevent blindness ever since.
The Maddens, on their first trip to "beautiful" New Zealand,
are both former teachers.
Mr Madden encouraged all clubs to raise literacy in their
communities and launched his own personal campaign, the
Reading Action Programme, to improve standards in the
The World Literacy Foundation report "The Economic and Social
Cost of Illiteracy", estimates the social and economic toll
on New Zealand of illiteracy is $3 billion a year.
Queenstown is hosting about 250 Lions Clubs International
members from counties including Australia, Indonesia, India,
Japan and Thailand from today until Sunday at the
ANZI-Pacific Lions Clubs Forum.
The VIP group yesterday presented a cheque for $2000 to the
Frankton Volunteer Fire Brigade, to go towards a new vehicle.
It also awarded a certificate to St Margaret's Remarkable
The group of 18 women voluntarily read stories to Remarkables
Primary School pupils every week to promote literacy.
The Lions group met Wanaka Lions on Wednesday. The same day,
it visited Cromwell, viewing club projects. It also inducted
new members in Cromwell, which took the membership up to 81.
Queenstown Lions Club president Jim Gibson said it was a
"once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of us to meet the
"Very few Lions clubs meet him over the year, so it's very