In 2012, Kevin Braine, underwent a corneal transplant to restore sight to his right eye. The former Apache helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army had first lost vision in his eye two years earlier when it was struck by a piece of glass. But only after undergoing the operation—which replaces the transparent tissue that covers the eye—did Blaine discover where the donor cornea had come from: the Lions Eye Bank of New Jersey. The eye bank stores and distributes donated corneal tissue so that people with damaged corneas, like Braine, can have their sight restored.
Access to corneas, however, wasn’t always so easy. Although ophthalmologist Dr. Edward Zirm performed the first successful corneal transplant in present-day Czech Republic in 1905, for decades there remained no good way to process, store and distribute the transplant tissues.
That all changed in 1944 when Dr. Richard Townley Paton, an eye surgeon at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in New York partnered with Dr. John McLean of New York Hospital and established the world’s first eye bank in New York. Formally organized in December at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, the bank worked with 19 area hospitals to collect healthy corneas from people who pledged their eyes in advance of their deaths. The bank, soon known as Eye-Bank for Sight Restoration, processed and distributed the corneas to grateful recipients.
Eager to promote corneal transplants, the Central Staten Island Lions Club established the Sight Restoration Society, and Lions determined to help people in their communities receive the transplants. Through fundraisers, including raffled refrigerators and scooters, the Buffalo Host Lions Club in upstate New York raised more than US$10,000 to help establish the Buffalo Eye Bank and Research Society Inc. in 1945. It was the second eye bank in the United States.
Other clubs followed suit. Initially corneas had to be used within only a few days of removal, but as technology and development of products and procedures improved, corneas could be stored safely for longer periods of time. In March 1984, the Lions Clubs International Eye Bank Program was officially adopted to help standardize Lions policies and help establish new eye banks. Half of the eye banks in the Eye Bank Association of America today were established by Lions. By 2015, Lions had opened approximately 55 Lions Eye Banks around the world.
Lions clubs support many more eye banks in their own communities, and during the first week of December each year, Lions raise awareness of the benefits of corneal transplants and the role of eye banks in donation and research through Lions Eye Bank Week. Today, thanks to Lions’ early vision for eye banks and continued support, thousands of people each year can say, “I see!”
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Today’s guest blog post is by Lion Dianne Corlew, wife of Lions Vice President Bob Corlew. Follow Dianne on Facebook!
Vice President Bob and I recently completed the Centennial Bus Tour – visiting nine states in nine days! On the tour we had the opportunity to visit the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind. VP Bob had the pleasure of inducting a Leo Club at the school.
Alexis Falconberry, a blind student at the school and the Leo Club Secretary, made my day. After VP Bob had inducted the students in and said, “May I introduce you to the newest Leos.” She did a small cheer with her hands, jumped up and down, and said, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” with the happiest grin on her face. I was so happy to see the joy and enthusiasm of her and the other students. They are truly happy and proud to be Leos.
Then I sadly thought of so many of our Lions. Where is the enthusiasm? Where is the sense of being proud to be a Lion? Can we jump up and down with joy because we are part of the largest and most effective service organization in the world? We should. We need to think about that and look for our enthusiasm. I hope each of us realizes the privilege we have to be a Lion. I hope each of us learns a lesson from Alexis. I hope we because enthusiastic about being a Lion.
The vast majority of LCIF’s grant funding is made possible by donations from Lions clubs and individual members worldwide. LCIF does not receive any portion of Lions membership dues. Did you know that there are multiple ways to donate to LCIF?
AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support LCIF every time you shop online, at no cost to you. When you shop at AmazonSmile, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to LCIF.
You can also maximize your donation through workplace giving. Many employers will match your donations to LCIF. Neighbor to Nation connects caring donors with trusted charities and Thrivent Financial helps citizens support meaning service projects. Click here to see if your company will match your donation.
Making a difference has never been so easy!
In the March LION Magazine, LCIF improved the lives of millions in 2014-15, Japanese Lions are helping young people in surprising ways and a man in Alaska relearned how to live after a blinding grizzly bear attack.
Also in this issue:
In the Digital LION, watch a message from Bill Gates to Lions, see how Lions clubs are using video on social media and read the LCIF 2014-15 Annual Report.
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