GUEST VIEW: The history behind White Cane Week

By Daily News • Last Updated 9:43 am on Tuesday, April 22, 2014

If you find yourself at True Value Hardware, Kmart or Walmart on Thursday, Friday or Saturday this week, most likely you will find a Greenville Lions Club member at the entrance holding a white cane with a red band and a clear container with a few dollars and some loose change.

You’ve seen these men and women every April, with their bright yellow vests and big smiles, and you may have dropped some change into their container. You have probably also thought, “Who are these men and women and what are they doing?”

John Moy

Let me fill you in …

First a bit of history: In 1921 Bristol, England, a man named James Biggs became blind following an accident. James felt uncomfortable around his home because of the high amount of traffic. He painted his walking stick white so it would be more easily visible.

In 1931 France, Guilly d’Herbemont recognized the danger to blind people in traffic and launched a national “white stick movement.” She donated 5,000 white canes to people in Paris.

The earliest history of white canes in the United States was in Illinois. In the early 1930s, George Bonham, president of the Peoria Illinois Lions Club, introduced an idea of using a white cane with a red band as a means of assisting the blind in independent mobility. The club approved of the idea and hundreds of white canes were made and distributed.

Shorty thereafter, the Peoria City Council adopted an ordinance giving a white cane bearer the right-of-way to cross the street. News of this quickly spread to numerous other Lions Clubs across the nation.

To make Americans fully aware of the meaning of white cane and the need for motorists to exercise special care for the blind person who carries it, in 1964 the U.S. Congress approved a resolution authorizing the U.S. president to annually issue a proclamation designating a National White Cane Safety Day.

Today white cane laws are on the books of every state.

I will be joining my fellow Greenville Lions Club members this week,  just as they have for past 50-plus years, with white canes in hand, passing out a bit of information to area residents on what white cane safety is all about. We will also have clear containers collecting loose change or a dollar or two.

These donations will be used by your Lions Club to fund charity projects, including a donation to Michigan Leader Dogs for the Blind and Camp Tuhsmeheta on Lincoln Lake Road.

Many of us, myself included, take our eyesight for granted. When you are out this week, a donation, like the price of a cup of coffee or a can of pop, can be a small way of acknowledging your thanks for your good eyesight.  Also know that your donation, grouped with many others, will be put to good use assisting someone dealing with the challenges of blindness.

I have had the pleasure of being a Greenville Lions Club member for seven years. During that time, I have met some of the most caring, generous, “down-right good people” I have ever met and I am proud to call them fellow Lion Club members. During this time, I have truly learned what “pay it forward” really means.

For 78 years, the Greenville Lions Club members have lived the club motto “We Serve.” I am happy to continue that rich tradition of service.

Most likely you have attended one of our spaghetti dinners or golf outings. We’ll be golfing again this year on May 17. You have probably enjoyed a hotdog or a brat during Danish Festival. We’ll be back again this year on Aug. 15 and 16.

We have put all your financial support to good use, right here in Greenville. We thank you.


John Moy is vice president of sales for Stafford Media Print.  He is a past president of the Lions Club and resides in Greenville.

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