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Lions add second Mexico clinic

With an obvious success, the Lions Clubs' trips to Mazatlan for eye care have expanded to include a clinic in Cabo San Lucas now.

In March, Lions from various clubs are on their fourth trip to Mazatlan, Mexico, to fit the poor with glasses. The man who got it up and running, Armand Radke, and his wife, Mari, are taking a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, this week to get the preliminary work done so next year another group of Lions can make the trip there and help correct even more people's vision.

"Last year, I met the (Lions) governor from Cabo at a Lions meeting. The next morning at breakfast he said, 'I have someone for you to meet,'" Radke explained.

He met a man working with Amigos de Ninos, Friends of Children, who ran a clinic for children with cleft palates. Radke asked if they would be interested in another eye care clinic there, and the reply was "of course."

So the Radkes are headed to Cabo San Lucas to do the "political part, shaking hands" this week. Radke said it usually takes about six months to get the logistics worked out before teams can go down to the area to help.

Beginning next year then, there will be a team going to Cabo San Lucas in February and a team going to Mazatlan in March. The Radkes plan to help with both.

Radke said he sees the two clinics as being basically the same operation, "different only because of demographics."

Each year the trips to Mazatlan have changed with the people seen. They have fitted people with glasses from schools to orphanages, and this year will go to small, surrounding villages.

"They (Mazatlan Lions) set it up so we see our work is never done," Radke said. Which, he adds, is both disheartening and a reality.

Along with the growing number of people being seen is the growing number of Lions attending. The first year, 18 Lions, spouses and students went. This year, 24 are signed up to help.

In the past, Lions mainly from Detroit Lakes and Frazee have participated, but this year that is expanding as well. Stories of the past trips were presented at district meetings of the Lions, and a request for help on a "working vacation" was made in the monthly newsletter. Now, Lions from Ottertail, Bluffton, Parker's Prairie, Detroit Lakes and Pequot Lakes are attending.

"We don't want them to go just once," Radke said. "We want them to get excited and go many times."

Regardless of all the helpers going though, the Radkes said there is still a need for eye doctors to attend.

Glasses for the missions, along with dance clothing for Mari to take to the children, can be donated at either MeritCare Clinic in Detroit Lakes or Radke's dance studio, Summit Dance.

The Lions are hosting a bowling fundraiser March 17 at Voyager Lanes, "Battle of the Businesses."

Besides the donated glasses, the Lions purchase reading glasses, which many of the women in Mexico use for sewing.

"They say, 'now I can keep my job,'" Radke said when giving the women their reading glasses. "We'd never think about that."

Because of Radke's work with the Lions trips to Mexico, he has earned a couple awards from the Lions Club. The Detroit Lakes club was presented the Lions International Relations Award, which the club then gave to Radke to hang in his office. The award symbolizes the opening of relations with another country.

Radke was also the recipient of the district's Melvin Jones Fellow Award for setting up the clinics. In a letter from Ashok Mehta from the Lions Clubs International Foundation, it says that Radke's award "represents your dedication to making the world a better place through humanitarian service."

A service the people of Mexico can see clearly.