Lion Eye Donation Service

The important support of the Lions Club

Alf Hawken is the Chair of the Lions Eye Donation Service Committee and has been a proud member of Lions for 50 years.

We sat down with Alf to ask him a few questions about the collaboration between Lions clubs and the Lions Eye Donation Service (LEDS).

Why do Lions clubs focus on projects that save sight?

Helen Keller challenged the Lions of the world to assist vision impaired and blind people at the 1925 Chicago convention of Lions. And we’ve been doing that ever since throughout the world.

How does Lions contribute to improving vision in Victoria?

We’ve established the Lions Eye Donation Service in Victoria, as well as eye banks in Western Australia and New South Wales. The eye bank in Victoria has been going for 30 years now.

The Lions Eye Donation Service is funded by the generosity of the Lions in Victoria, who support the eye bank through the Victorian Lions Foundation. This Foundation is the funding body for medical research in Victoria and the eye bank is one of the projects we contribute to.

Our role used to be to fund the shortfall at the Lions Eye Donation Service, but now we are funding equipment and a Lions Corneal Research Fellow each year. Dr Karl Brown is a previous recipient of the Corneal Research Fellowship and he’s been doing some really clever research to improve corneal transplant.

You’ve been Chair of the Lions Eye Donation Service Committee for over 10 years. What motivates you to stay in this role and what do you find satisfying about working on this project?

To supply eye tissue to around 400 people a year, that’s got to be satisfying to anyone. It means people get to have a transplant and they’re able to see and go on with their lives.

The role gives you satisfaction when you hear that someone who was blind has been given a transplantation and can now see.

But the one that brought it close to home for me was when my grandson had an accident at work and got a foreign object in his eye. He ended up receiving a corneal graft from the eye bank. That blew me away.

But it doesn’t matter if it’s your family or not – we do this work for all people.

What have been some of the strengths of the partnership with the eye bank over the years?

For the last 15 years or so we’ve had a very stable committee of Doug Lyons from Colac, Rod Jackson from Leongatha, Graeme Head from Beaumaris, Neil Campbell from Wangaratta and me, from Bacchus Marsh. Doug, Graeme and Neil have actually been on the committee since inception.

Dr Graeme Pollock has been the Director of the eye bank since inception and he’s been fantastic in keeping us informed of what’s happening and making sure it happens.