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Knight of the blind

By Staff | Aug 22, 2014

Ashley Burkhartsmeier/PCT Craig Wollenburg speaks about the Lions Eye Bank at Music in the Park.

In 1925, at an international convention, Helen Keller challenged Lions clubs to become “knights of the blind,” and it’s been part of their mission ever since. In serving with the Lions Eye Bank of North Dakota, Rugby Lion Craig Wollenburg has been a part of that endeavor.

As part of the Lions’ aims to improve, restore and preserve sight, the Lions Eye Bank recovers human eye tissue for transplants, as well as research and medical education. It also promotes cornea donation and works hand-in-hand with other organ procurement organizations. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration.

Wollenburg has been on the eye bank board for eight years, and has been president since last year. His duties as eye bank president include conducting board meetings, setting direction and anticipating changes and problems.

Wollenburg joined the eye bank after serving as president of the Rugby Lions club. He recalled receiving a letter from a woman who, after not being able to see for 30 years, received a cornea transplant from the eye bank and was able to see.

“That resonated with me when this lady called what happened to her a ‘miracle,'” Wollenburg said. “I wanted to be a part of it and I was entrusted with running the organization this year and last year.”

As part of the organization, Wollenburg has also been part of the cornea collection and transportation process. He recalled some of the corneas he had to transport belonging to people he knew.

“Knowing the people was somewhat hard, but you also know what it means for the recipient,” Wollenburg said.

Wollenburg said this year has been a busy year for the eye bank. The organization is trying to affiliate with the Eye Bank of South Dakota for more effective administration.

“We know those people and we’re looking forward to an affiliation, but we’re right in the middle of a transition period,” Wollenburg said.

Wollenburg also said this year the eye bank received more eye tissue than needed. That tissue will go to other parts of the upper Midwest, and if needed elsewhere it will go around the country and around the world.

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