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LEBNE Recognizes Minority Awareness Month

For the month of August, Lions Eye Bank of the Northeast (LEBNE) will recognize Minority Awareness Month in hopes to bring attention to diverse communities.

National Minority Donor Awareness Month is a collaborative initiative of the National (Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation) Multicultural Action Group (NMAG) to save and improve the quality of life by creating a positive culture for organ, eye, and tissue donation. This mission mirrors LEBNE’s since it serves as a vital link in that chain — connecting donors to recipients of much-needed eye tissue.

LEBNE was initially called the Sight Conservation Society of Northeastern New York Inc., which opened the world’s first Lions Eye Bank in 1952. While LEBNE has gone through a rebrand, its mission stays the same: to provide ocular tissue for transplantation, medical education, and research.

Its efforts exceed the national transplant rate of 68 percent, at an impressive 89 percent. In 2022, the bank helped more than 600 families facilitate eye donations, resulting in 1,041 successful corneal transplants — the most in its history.  

“We have a comprehensive laboratory staffed by a dedicated team, and can recover ocular tissue in hospitals, hospices, and funeral homes,” Public Relations Representative Jade Nuri said. “In 2022 we were able to place corneas in 21 states and 13 countries across the globe.”

In addition to their Corneal Transplant Program, the organization has a Donor Family After Care Program. This program invites and facilitates transplant recipients and donor families to write letters to each other in the hopes that healing can take place. It also encourages donor families and transplant recipients to meet should both parties agree.

LEBNE has demonstrated its support to those who gave the “Gift of Sight” by holding a memorial service. "The purpose of the event is to honor the donors and provide an environment for families to remember and share memories of the loved one with others," Nuri said. 

The Eye Bank recently received a letter from a young recipient in Chile, who expressed great gratitude for their new cornea. More stories like this one can be found on LEBNE’s website under the Community tab.

“These transplants not only restore one’s sight but also enhance the life of that individual,” Nuri added. “We’re really trying to ramp up our volunteer base as well as our After Care Program to bring more donor families and recipients together.”

Nuri envisions a virtual meeting space in which families and individuals can converse with one another. 

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