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Utah Lions Eye Bank Celebrates 50 Years of Restoring Vision

The non-profit Utah Lions Eye Bank — John A. Moran Eye Center (ULEB) is celebrating 50 years of working with eye tissue donors and their families to provide corneal tissue for sight-restoring transplants and eye disease research.

Recent ULEB donors include Utah’s Gail Halvorsen, known worldwide as the “Candy Bomber” pilot of World War II’s Berlin Airlift.

“My father focused on helping others during his life, and he saw eye tissue donation as another way to continue to do that, even in death,” said Halvorsen’s daughter, Denise Williams.

Williams will join other donor families, tissue recipients, and ophthalmologists at a Sept. 14 open house 50th anniversary celebration. Open to the public, attendees can learn more about donation and enjoy a tour, food trucks, and games. The event will be held between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. at ULEB, located at 6056 Fashion Square Drive, Suite 2000, Murray.

The ULEB serves Utah and Idaho as well as patients domestically and internationally. Its mission is to restore hope through vision working closely with surgeons, researchers, donor families, and the community.

Since it was founded by Lion Club members of MD-28, the ULEB has helped to transplant over 20,000 grafts of corneal tissue to restore vision. In July alone, more than 75 people had their sight restored thanks to eye bank donors. The non-profit is staffed 24/7 with specialists who serve donor families and recipients.

”Each donation is a gift from one family to another,” said ULEB Medical Director Amy Lin, MD. “There are various reasons why someone may need a cornea transplant including certain diseases of the cornea including one called keratoconus, or damage to the cornea from injury or infection."

ULEB Director Chris Hanna said the eye bank’s reach extends worldwide.

"For 50 years, we have proudly facilitated the precious gift of sight for thousands of patients in Utah and across the world as doctors go on humanitarian missions,” said Hanna. “In addition to providing tissue for corneal transplants, ULEB supplies world-class researchers developing innovative treatments for a variety of blinding eye diseases."

Working with ULEB eye tissue, scientists at the John A. Moran Eye Center’s Sharon Eccles Steele Center for Translational Medicine have developed a potential new therapy for age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness for people 55 and over.

How to Become an Eye Donor