WOOD RIVER — On March 15, 1964, the Wood River Lions Club held the first Pancake Day at Skaggs Steak House on Edwardsville Road.
Pancake Day’s purpose was to raise funds for the vision and hearing-impaired. Fifty years later, the Lions Club is still working to help those in need obtain eye exams, glasses or hearing aids.
"We love to help younger kids who are still in school," club member Tom Macias said. "This has always been an important cause for our members."
Macias, 82, has been a member of the Lions Club and participating in Pancake Day for more than 40 years. Richard Scheffel and Ed Hamlin, former owner of Albrecht-Hamlin Chevrolet in Wood River, are two of the oldest surviving Lions Club members.
The 50th annual Pancake Day will take place at the Wood River Moose Club, 1150 Vaughn Road, up the hill from the Walmart Super Center, on Sunday, April 13, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cover charge is $7 for adults and $3.50 for children younger than 12. Guests of the all-you-can-eat event can enjoy pancakes and a special-recipe sausage participants can only experience at this annual event. In past years, the Lions have served on average 1,000 to 1,500 people on Pancake Day.
The late Ben Bono, owner of Benred Meats, formulated a special mixture for the sausage that the Lions use on Pancake Day. Upon his passing, he left the recipe for the special mixture in his will to the Lions Club to be used only for this event. Troy Foods in Troy, Ill., is the sausage supplier for Pancake Day and uses the secret mixture to prepare the sausage.
"We will go through anywhere from 700 to 800 pounds of sausage," acting Lions President Dr. Mark Ellison said. "People love coming back year after year to enjoy something they can only have on that one day.”
All Pancake Day proceeds go straight into a fund to be used only for the purpose to help those in need for eye health and hearing impairments.
Dr. Mark Ellison of the Bethalto Family Vision Center, 422 W. Bethalto Drive, has been a practicing optometrist since 1980 and conducts eye exams for those accepted into this program.
School nurses or individuals contact the Lions Club directly to receive help for vision and hearing tests. Prospective recipients can apply for assistance and after the secretary reviews the file and background of each case, the members take a vote.
"In most cases we are able to help people and they have to pay nothing," Macias said. "We cover the exams and the glasses through Dr. Ellison."
Lions member Jerry Barber, a former teacher with the Triad School district, was recognized with an award from Lions International for his work on the Pancake Day project.
"Jerry Barber has taken used hearing aids that had been refurbished or donated to Mexico to help kids who would never have an opportunity to receive this type of care," Ellison said."That has made such a difference for those children."
The Lions Club serves its community in many areas such as fund-raising, grants and scholarships. If you would like to make a donation to the Wood River Lions Club, mail your donation to P.O. Box 531 Wood River, IL 62095 in care of Gerald Barber.