Lion May 2013 : Page 6

IN THE SPOTLIGHT ONE OF US KELLER JOHNSON THOMPSON When Keller Johnson Thompson was a young girl in Tuscumbia, Alabama, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up. But she knew one thing—she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her great-great aunt, Helen Keller. Thompson, the great-granddaughter of Keller’s sister, Mildred, grew up knowing that any obsta-cle in life can be overcome if one works hard, has faith and strives to make a posi-tive difference. As vice president of educa-tion for the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, an ambassador for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and a Tuscumbia Lion, Thomp-son’s great-great aunt would be very proud of how her legacy is being carried on. Know a Lion who you think deserves a bit of recognition? Email us a brief description of your Lion and the reason you’re nominating him or her at lionmagazine@ . Please include “One of Us” in the subject line. Do you remember when you first became aware of who Helen Keller was? There was never a time that Helen Keller wasn’t part of my life. My earliest memories are of spending time with my grandmother at Ivy Green, Helen’s birthplace. In elementary school almost every report I wrote was about her. By junior high they made me choose someone else to write about! Did your connection to her grow stronger as you got older? Yes, I was really drawn to her and her legacy. I wanted to help people, not only those who are deaf or blind, but anyone facing obstacles. I considered being a lawyer or going into politics, but after college I went to work for the Helen Keller Foundation, which my grandmother helped start. I developed a character education program, and we’ve taken it to schools across the United States. You’ve also carried on your aunt’s legacy at the AFB. She was the first ambassador for the AFB, and I was honored to be named its second. It’s so special to be a part of the organization she spent 44 years working for, advocating for the blind. I work with archivists, help with fundrais-ers, answer questions from children about Helen submitted through our web-site. Most importantly I help people realize that she was more than just the little girl at the water pump and what she did with her life. What’s something that might surprise us about Helen Keller? She loved hot dogs and martinis! Also she was a very humorous person. She was serious about her work, but she enjoyed life. She loved gardening; she could smell and feel a flower and tell you exactly what kind it was. Why do you think history was made when Helen Keller spoke to the Lions in 1925? She knew that if anyone was going to accept her challenge to be Knights of the Blind, it was going to be the Lions. And was she ever right. I’m just grateful for everything Lions have done for the world, and I’m honored to be a small part of that. Keller Johnson Thompson at the historic water pump at Ivy Green where life forever changed for her remarkable great-great aunt. Find out more about Thompson’s work and Keller’s legacy: 6 LION MAY 2013

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