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Cynthia, a junior at Juan Diego Catholic High School, has seen first-hand the effects of corneal disease and blindness with over 50 corneal transplants shared amongst her family members. Cynthia has grown up with those around her losing their gift of sight. The day Cynthia turned 16, she immediately got her driver's license so she could chauffeur her grandmother (Nana Lyn), to appointments. Nana Lyn, a self proclaimed back-seat driver, has had eight corneal transplants in order to save her sight.

This past year, Nana Lyn was facing the potential of once again losing her sight if she did not receive another corneal transplant. While Cynthia was driving Nana Lyn to her sight saving surgery, Cynthia was struck with an idea. With the gift of sight having such a life-changing impact on her family, Cynthia wanted to do something to give back. Cynthia immediately contacted her nana’s surgeon, Dr. Wolsey, as well as her school, and started to plan a fundraiser. She organized a “Spirit Dress Day”, which allows students to ditch their uniform for Juan Diego branded merchandise. At a school that requires uniforms, this is a big deal. She then required every student who wanted to participate to pay $3 towards her cause. Cynthia spent time talking to many of her peers and explaining the importance of cornea research and transplants, along with the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation. On November 18, over 300 of Juan Diego’s 800 students participated in the fundraiser, with several participants donating more than $3. Cynthia was overwhelmed with the support of her fellow students and could not wait to surprise Nana Lyn. While driving her nana to a doctor’s appointment, she pulled out the envelope containing the check and handed it to her. As Nana Lyn describes, she was “speechless”, full of pride, and amazed with the efforts of her granddaughter. Nana Lyn never imagined the constant impact this disease would have on herself and family and never imagined that it would ignite a desire in Cynthia to help others.  But Nana Lyn was not surprised; she describes Cynthia as someone who “doesn't see people with her eyes, but rather with her heart. She is a real-life angel, and a blessing!”

At Utah Lions Eye Bank, we are thankful for all of the financial contributions we receive, but wanted to highlight this story. We are incredibly grateful that Cynthia put in so much effort to help raise money for the eye bank. All of these funds and the other financial contributions will go to our efforts in corneal transplant and research, along with aiding those who would otherwise not be able to receive a corneal transplant. The Utah Lions Eye Bank provided nearly $1 million in goodwill in 2016 to help people domestically and internationally receive the gift of sight, and efforts like Cynthia’s and all of our other financial donors will help us continue to advance our mission of restoring hope through vision.

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