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Minnesota Lions pledge $3M to prevent blindness in infants and children, mark 50-year partnership with the U

Jay Krachmer, M.D., head of the department of Ophthalmology; Patty Porter, Minnesota Medical Foundation vice president of development; Lions member Lynn Farley; and Richard Reger, Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, Inc., board chair. (Photo by Tim Rummelhoff)

Contact: Chuck Semrow, Minnesota Medical Foundation, (612) 624-6313;
Jennifer Marshall, Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, Inc., (612) 626-6081

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (July 31, 2010)—Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, Inc., board chair Richard J. Reger presented a $3 million check, representing a pledge to the University of Minnesota to establish the Minnesota Lions Fund to Prevent Blindness in Infants and Children.

The gift, made through the Minnesota Medical Foundation, will advance research, education and care in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

This pledge represents a milestone in the Lions’ steadfast commitment to supporting the University’s efforts in blindness prevention and marks the 50-year partnership between the Minnesota Lions, Minnesota Lions Eye Bank and the University’s Department of Ophthalmology.

Jay Krachmer, M.D., head of the department, says this gift will have a “massive” impact. “Because of this fund, babies will not go blind because of retinopathy of prematurity, congenital cataracts, congenital glaucoma and other sight-threatening conditions,” he says. Krachmer added that department faculty members in every specialty will benefit from this gift, which will help them to better serve patients.

“When Lions see that something needs to get done, they are right up there volunteering and doing it before others even know about it,” Krachmer says. “Over these 50 years, they have said, ‘How can we help?’ That’s the relationship we have with the Minnesota Lions.”

The Minnesota Lions Eye Bank, the first Lions partnership with the ophthalmology department, provides donor eye tissue for transplantation, research and teaching and promotes donation through education. The Eye Bank has helped restore sight to more than 22,000 people. In addition, over the years the Minnesota Lions launched and sustained several other important initiatives with the University, including establishing the Lions Children’s Eye Clinic, the William H. Knobloch Retina Chair, the Lions Macular Degeneration Center and helping build the Lions Research Building. They have also garnered community support for vision issues and contributed countless hours of volunteer time.

“Over the years, I have witnessed firsthand the stories of people who have lost loved ones and donated their organs, and also the people who have received donor tissue. These people are the reason for the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank and the good we have done over the years,” says Reger. “I am very proud of the Eye Bank and the University of Minnesota and its staff for all that they accomplish through the partnership.”

There are approximately 22,000 Lions working on service-focused projects throughout Minnesota. “Each Lions Club has its own unique way of raising funds,” Reger says. “Some have pancake feeds and fishing tournaments, but the dedication and commitment is always there to reach out to the less fortunate.”

The Minnesota Medical Foundation has raised and managed private gifts that expand what’s possible in health and medical research, education and care at the University of Minnesota since 1939. For more information, please visit www.mmf.umn.edu or call (612) 625-1440.

Minnesota Lions Clubs are part of Lions Clubs International, which boasts more than 1.35 million members—making it the world’s largest service organization. Lions members work to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding. For more information, please visit www.lionsmd5m.org.

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