Transporting eye tissue to help give sight


SALEM, Ore. – When members of the West Salem Lions Club asked Craig Urbani if he would volunteer his time and gas money to transport donated eye-tissue from Salem to the Eye Bank in Portland, he said yes. Not long afterwards, his wife Cecilia joined the club so she could help him do it. Now thirty plus years later – night or day, sometimes together and sometimes separately – the couple is still driving the 100+ round-trip from Salem delivering tissue the Lions VisionGift Research Laboratory in Portland.

“This was something I realized I had the ability to do,” Craig said when asked if he would volunteer. “We never know when we might get a call to meet a fellow courier and transport tissue he has picked up in Springfield, the coast, or wherever and take it on to Portland. There is a network of Lions Club members throughout the state that have 24-hours from the time of collection to get the donated eye tissue from the donor to the eye bank. We enjoy doing it.”

The Lions Club, who Helen Keller challenged at a 1929 Lions International Convention to become Knights of the Blind and help prevent blindness, restore eyesight and improve eye health and eye care to as many people as possible. The Lions club is doing that by providing eye screenings and glasses, providing cataract surgeries, vaccinating against measles, training eye care professionals, and building eye hospitals and research facilities.

The non-profit Lions VisionGift in Portland is responsible for all eye tissue donations in the state of Oregon and parts of Southwest Washington. It supplies ocular tissue for sight restoring transplant surgeries and crucial research initiatives, and its Vision Research Laboratory researchers are active innovators in surgical techniques procedures. Founded in 1975, it is FDA registered and accredited by the Eye Bank Association of America.

Participating in the gift of sight can start the moment someone checks the donor box on his or her driver license application, designates himself or herself as a donor on the state donor registry. However, VisionGift must receive a family member’s consent for donation to occur if a donor is not registered via the DMV or on the state registry. Though donor corneas are prepared and stored until needed, the need is so great than most are transplanted three to five days after recovery.

“In addition to transporting eye tissue, our West Salem Club participates in the collecting and distributing used intact prescription eye glasses, brings vision and hearing screening to community events. We also we give an American flag to every first grader enrolled in West Salem schools and we produce the Salem Electric Salem Summer Concerts in the West Salem Park,” Craig said. “When you see our snow cone and candy cotton booth at the Polk County Fair, our refreshment stand at the Salem Electric Salem Summer Concerts or our Christmas tree lot West Salem Ace Hardware parking lot, don’t hesitate to stop by.”

For more information about Lions VisionGift, call 1-800-843-7793 or visit For more information about the West Salem Lions Club see their Facebook page or email

– Jan Jackson©


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