Lions Clubs exist throughout the world and constitute the largest charitable organisation in existence. The origin of Athy Lions Club goes back to the early months of 1971. Kilkenny City had an active Lions Club and one of it's members was Paddy Reynolds, a relation of Athy Chemist Des McHugh. Paddy contacted Des about the possibility of extending Lionism to Athy. The idea was mentioned on a number of occasions and Des discussed the matter with a number of locals who indicated sufficient interest to encourage the Kilkenny Lions Club to call a meeting for the Leinster Arms Hotel, Athy.
That meeting held in May 1971 was in fact the monthly meeting of the Kilkenny Lions Club. Des McHugh and a small number of Athy men attended. Afterwards the visiting Lions withdrew and allowed the locals to discuss among themselves the feasibility of starting a Lions Club in the south Kildare town. It is recalled that a visiting priest from the U.S.A. stayed behind and addressed those in attendance on the ideals and objectives of Lionism. His words more than anything else satisfied those who heard him that Athy should establish it's own Lions Club.
A number of further meetings were called and potential members were invited to attend until a minimum of sixteen were available to form the nucleus of the new Club. The Athy Lions Club was officially chartered on the 29th of June, 1971 sponsored by the Kilkenny Lions Club. The first President was Des McHugh who held that position for two years. Ken Turner was the first Secretary. The Charter members were:
T. Curry Michael Walsh
Des Perry Ger Moriarty
Michael Prendergast John Perry
John King Jerry Carbery
Jim Lochrin Richard Norris
Des McHugh Liam Porter
Ken Turner Michael Cunningham
Michael Dwyer Gerry Cleary
R. Barrett Johnny Watchorn
K. O'Grady Michael Wall
Barry Donnelly William Cade
Trevor Shaw Liam Owens
Athy Lions Club sponsored in 1971 by Kilkenny Club has in turn sponsored new Lions Clubs in Newbridge/Kildare, Carlow, Monasterevan and shared in the sponsorship of the Naas Club.
The local Lions Club has made a substantial contribution to many charities and causes over the years but perhaps it's most memorable achievements include the purchase of the former Dreamland Ballroom in conjunction with Athy Parish as a social and sports centre for the area. The provision of ten sheltered housing units with a community room in the grounds of St. Vincent's Hospital was another unique project initiated by the Lions Club in 1989. Costing in excess of £250,000.00 the project was successfully completed with the active co-operation and support of other Lions Clubs in the County. Other projects assisted include Sr. Consillo's Cuan Mhuire, St. Vincent's Hospital, Athy, and the Knights of Malta who received two Ambulances from the Lions Club. It is estimated that charitable projects have received financial assistance of almost one million pounds from Athy’s Lions Club in the 22 years of it's existence.
The work of the Athy members receives little or no publicity but the legacy of their good work in South Kildare is a fitting reward for those men who have worked quietly but effectively since 1971.