New Jersey Lions celebrate 50th anniversary of restoring sight in the Garden State

Celebrating 50 years in New Jersey: 1970-2020

In 1970, a group of men and women known as the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs—a fraternal organization working to promote personal and social development— saw a critical Garden State need. They collaborated with the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey on a plan.

The need was the number of patients with failing vision who could be helped with corneal transplants. The plan was to establish New Jersey’s first eye bank to serve them.

Today, that eye bank—now known as Eversight—joins New Jersey Lions and the rest of the Garden State in celebrating 50 years and thousands of donors, their families and patients who have received the gift of sight. Early on, Lions became crucially and actively involved with the nascent eye bank, supporting operation and raising funds to ensure its future and impact today.

“Our work and commitment to the people of New Jersey remains as unwavering as New Jersey Lions’ vision and partnership through the years, in our shared mission to restore sight and prevent blindness.”David Bosch, Eversight President/CEO

The New Jersey Eye Bank operated for its first few years at what is now the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. In 1973, it moved to the Eye Institute of New Jersey as the institute assumed management and the Odd Fellows continued fundraising. Through the collaboration, New Jersey eye donation and recoveries dramatically increased to about 100 a year—significantly growing the number of patients able to receive transplants.

From the start, New Jersey Lions had actively supported the young eye bank, renamed in 1974 as the Eye Bank Foundation of New Jersey. Their work and support fueled the eye bank’s ongoing development and impact. In 1988, it became the Lions Eye Bank of New Jersey. As its work continued growing, operations moved to a new building at The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and later a location shared with NJ Sharing Network, New Jersey’s federally designated nonprofit organ procurement organization.

By 2005, the eye bank was providing for about 400 cornea transplants each year and became part of the Midwest Eye-Banks network, providing for additional technology and clinical systems, public education and outreach to advance its New Jersey mission. In 2015, the nonprofit community-based network became known as Eversight.

Today, from its home in Clark, Eversight proudly partners with NJ Sharing Network, Lions Clubs, surgeons, businesses and philanthropists throughout New Jersey to advance its mission. In 2019, Eversight worked with the families of 882 New Jersey residents who gave the gift of sight for transplantation, research and education. Through outreach and programs, Eversight provided donated tissue for 8,176 sight-restoring corneal transplants in 2019 in New Jersey and around the world. It continues to provide for all eligible requests for its Gift of Sight charitable support, enabling under- and uninsured patients to receive sight-restoring transplants.

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