Why Do We Call It White Cane?

Have you ever wondered why we call our major fund raising effort “The White Cane Drive?”  The first “White Cane Drive” was during the 1946 – 1947 Lions year. Sixty-four years ago, the North Carolina Lions raised more than $13,000 for the programs and services provided by the North Carolina State Association for the Blind (the original name of the North Carolina Lions Foundation). The commitment to providing White Canes though goes back to our beginnings.  The practice of providing support and mobility canes to the blind and visually impaired began in 1935 and has continued uninterrupted since that time.  If you see a citizen of North Carolina carrying a white cane, tipped or striped with red, you can be assured that a Lions club somewhere in our state had a hand in providing that cane.  Whether through the Division of Services for the Blind, the county social worker for the blind, a local club, or the North Carolina Lions Foundation, EVERY white cane you see or have seen since 1935 was provided by the Lions.  We administer, pay for, and provide every single one of them. This should be a source of pride for every Lion and Lions Club.  From the very beginning, these canes served notice to all, motorists in particular, that the bearer could not see. Some municipalities have adopted ordinances requiring traffic to yield the right of way to persons carrying these canes.  In 1949, the North Carolina Legislature established the “White Cane Law.”  This bill prohibited the use of a white cane by any but a visually impaired person and gave such persons the right of way at road, street, or highway crossings when they extended the cane at arm’s length while crossing or were accompanied by a guide dog. The law became effective January 1, 1950.  In 1939, a detailed plan of activity was developed by the North Carolina State Association for the Blind.  As part of this plan, the Lions Clubs and local associations for the blind gave white canes to the visually impaired in their counties and the State Association (NCLF) provided them in all other counties.

From 1940 – 1941, 150 canes were provided by Lions and the Association.  Last year, 1,327 canes were provided through your “White Cane” contributions to NCLF.  The cost to administer this program and provide this service was just over $57,000.  This is just one of the ways your “White Cane” contributions are used. In the months to come, in future issues of this newsletter, you will learn ALL the ways your money helps make life better for those we serve.  In the end, I guess it is not so important why we call it “White Cane.” It’s what we do with that White Cane money that keeps us true to our roots, provides the fruits of our labor, and nourishes a future full of hope and promise for those we have committed to serve.

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