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Roll out the barbecue – it’s time to celebrate Dad!

Lion Ray Hempel

Sunday marks the day to honor the men in our lives with a day dedicated just to him. With Father’s Day right around the corner, we thought it would be the perfect excuse to honor an exceptional man in the Wisconsin Lions community – Ray Hempel, the father and originator of Wisconsin Lions Camp.

You may have already heard this story a time or two, but it’s one that we think can always be retold. The year was 1952; Lion Ray Hempel was visiting with two 12-year old boys at an area hospital. He asked them if they had ever attended a camp. One boy replied, “Blind kids can’t go to outdoor camp and stuff like that.”

Others may have just acknowledged the response, apologized and changed the subject, but Lion Ray was not that man. Instead, he took those words to heart and began visualizing a camp that would provide an outdoor experience for those two boys and others like them.

His background in Lions and Boy Scouts, as well as his love of camping told him exactly what he needed to do. He needed to persuade the Wisconsin Lions to start a camp for blind children.

A few years later, Lion Ray and the Poy Sippi Lions petitioned the District Governors for a permanent camp location at the 1955 Wisconsin State Convention. At the 1956 convention, a 240-acre property was purchased in Rosholt, and the Wisconsin Lions Camp was born. Lion Ray served as the first camp director and was proud to be an integral part of its development

Today, the camp has expanded to serve even more children with special needs, including vision and hearing impairments, mild cognitive disabilities and Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, all at no cost to their families.

With the first week of summer camp starting on Monday, we think there’s no better time to reflect on the man who started it all. Who knew a chance comment would lead to such big change. Since its inception Lions Camp has offered the week of a lifetime to nearly 70,000 campers. There’s no question in our minds that Ray Hempel was the epitome of a Wisconsin Lion.

Happy Father’s Day from Lions Pride!

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