Dr. Arnall Patz was the Wilmer visionary who desired a partnership with Lions International. Helen Keller had previously suggested to him that he work with the Lions, who were active in helping the blind. He concluded that a joint service project between the world’s largest service organization and the world’s leading eye institute would result in great discoveries which would help people worldwide. During the period 1978 to 1985 Dr. Patz made several overtures to Lions International, including a trip to Lions Headquarters in 1979, to encourage the Lions to collaborate with the Wilmer Eye Institute. With time, support for the partnership grew among the Lions of MD22 representing Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Maryland.
In May of 1988, delegates to the 66th MD22 Lions Convention approved the establishment of the Lions Vision Research Foundation. In March of 1991, Robert Massof, Director of the Lions Vision Center, recommended that the Center’s research be focused on the problem of low vision for which there is no cure. “Low vision” is vision loss that cannot be corrected by eyeglasses, medicines, or surgery. Major causes of low vision are macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and inherited eye diseases. Five million people in the US suffer from low vision; twenty-five million people are impacted worldwide. Dr. Massof proposed further that the Lions create a $4 million endowment fund to guarantee the Lions Vision Center would operate in perpetuity.
In November 1991, with then Lions International President Don Banker in attendance, the Lions and the Wilmer Eye Institute entered into a formal memo of understanding officially creating the Lions Vision Center and committing the Lions to the raising of the endowment fund.
Our Financial Challenge
In 1994 the Lions Vision Research Foundation committed to providing $200,000 annually for eye research at the Lions Vision Center and to create a $4 million Endowment Fund to ensure funding for the operation of the Center in perpetuity. Each year since 1994, the Lions have provided $200,000 while growing the Endowment Fund. On May 12, 2007 the Lions Family and Wilmer partners celebrated the achievement of the $4 million goal. New service opportunities have been identified which require additional funding. We Lions will never accept the status quo so long as there are visually impaired people. Our sponsors and your participation in this golf tournament and silent auction will help us to meet our continuing challenge once again.
Our Medical/Technological Mission
We Lions are proud to partner with Wilmer, which is usually ranked by USNEWS & WORLD REPORTas the number one ophthalmological institute in America. Author Tom Clancy, our Honorary Lions Vision 2000 Chairman calls Wilmer “One of America’s crown jewels.” Our research team at the Lions Vision Center is developing cutting edge low vision enhancement technology, paving the way for retinal transplants and prosthetic vision through electronic chip implants, and new ways to assist drivers. Our clinical specialists provide people with the low vision devices and practices to help them improve their quality of life while making the most of their remaining vision. We applaud our team for their skill, dedication, and hard work. We know that if medical and scientific breakthroughs are to happen, they will happen because of the collaboration between the Lions and the Wilmer Team at the Lions Vision Center.