Thirty years in eyesight charity saddle for Lion-hearted Ian

Lions and other volunteers from across Gippsland get behind the Lions Ride for Sight each year. Pictures: Supplied

Taking up cycling in middle age has led Warragul man Ian de Bruyne to a 30-year connection to a Lions fundraising bike ride that raises money for research into and treatment of eye diseases that cause vision loss and blindness.

Now, in his 70s, Warragul’s Ian de Bruyne is raring to go for the thirtieth anniversary Lions Ride for Sight from Friday March 22 to Sunday March 24, with all funds raised going to the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) to fund research into new treatments and therapies for eye disease.

The first Lions Ride for Sight in 1994 took participants from Mallacoota to CERA headquarters in Melbourne – a mammoth 650km trek.

This year’s event is a shorter, but no less significant run from Moe to Cowwarr, near Heyfield, and return – about 170km.

Over the past 30 years, Lions Ride for Sight has raised more than $1.2 million for CERA. The aim this year is to raise a further $60,000.

Ian, a long-time Warragul Lions Club member, said he had only discovered his passion for cycling when the first Ride for Sight was held – and he’s been hooked ever since.

“I was a bike rider. I was in my early days of bike riding for two or three years when I saw an advertisement in the Lions District 201V3 (Gippsland) newsletter about a bike ride from Mallacoota to Melbourne,” Ian said.

“I thought, ‘There’s a nice challenge’, so I decided to join. Cycling is something I love doing. I don’t have any eye issues, and nor does my family. I thought, ‘I’m fit and well, so I’ll support this’, and I enjoyed it. I did it the next year. I enjoyed that.”

Ian said he is proud to support the ride, which is part of Lions International’s program to end preventable blindness around the world.

That work began after an address by blindness advocate Helen Keller to a Lions convention in the United States in 1925.

“Our Lions district’s idea was to ride right across our district to raise money, our district starts at Phillip Island and ends in Mallacoota,” he said.

“The rides are not as long now but I enjoy them still.”

He has served on the ride organisation committee for most of the past three decades, including five stints as chair.

Last year, he handed over to present chairman, Moe Lions Club’s Paul Drinkwater.

People can support Lions Ride for Sight by either entering the ride itself from March 22 – 24 with a $70 entry fee where they must raise a minimum of $400 in sponsorship.

Or, riders can enter the Ride with a Difference, where riders pay $30 to enter and nominate the number of kilometres they aim to ride anywhere across the month of March to raise a minimum of $250 in sponsorship.

Riders will meet at the Moe Community Groups Hub at 4pm on Friday 22 March where they will enjoy a group dinner at participants’ cost and an after-dinner presentation from a CERA representative on CERA’s work.

They ride for Cowwarr on Saturday morning and return Sunday afternoon.

Hosting Lions Clubs from Moe, Heyfield and Latrobe Wellington and Bairnsdale host the ride by providing overnight and meal stops.

To join the Ride for Sight or Ride with a Difference, or to support the riders, details are available on the event’s Raisley page.

For enquiries, email or phone 0450 260 679