Lions Club celebrates 100 years of spreading service around the world

CHICAGO -- A Parade of Nations marched along State Street Saturday as the city played host to the 100th anniversary convention of the International Lions Club.

People from more than 125 countries showcased their countries during the parade, taking up blocks and blocks of the street as they marched.

"We think it’s probably the biggest international parade probably that there’s ever been. 48 we have lions from many of our 210 countries that are marching in their own native garb and its really a beautiful event," said Lions Club International President Bob Corlew.

The Lions Club began in Chicago in 1917 and grew to one of the largest service organizations in the world.

"Today we are in 210 countries, every continent except Antarctica, and we have about 48,000 lions clubs, nearly 1,500,000 lions," Corlew said.

About 30,000 of those lions are in Chicago for the convention at McCormick Place, focusing on their core missions, including vision issues, hunger, and youth programs. One of the most recent missions is worn on their wrists: Kindess Matters.

"It’s basically showing that we should all be kind to each other and love each other as humans equally," said Alexis Schwartz of Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Schwartz is one of the many younger humans at the convention, and explained the effort was to extend kindness from real life to online.

"Social media is obviously very influential, but it’s overcoming it is easy if you know what you’re doing because you know what to ignore and what to pay attention to and when to say something about the hate and when to ignore it," Schwartz said.

In 100 years, the Lions Club has gone from a Chicago startup to a world power in service.

"We as lions are trying to show kindness all over the world," Corlew said.