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Jagdish’s Legacy Lives On

We are kicking off the New Year right with a very special Favorite Friend Friday highlighting a selfless donor and his family.

Jagdish Narula was a family man who put everyone else’s needs before his own.  After graduating from a prestigious engineering university in India, he moved to the US, joined shortly thereafter by his wife, Sushma, and their three young daughters.

“Even long after Jagdish left India, he helped many families back home,” his wife Sushma explains. “Two of my brothers passed away when their children were young. My husband supported them with their education and other needs. He also helped a family of 6 to purchase a home so they could move to a safer neighborhood.”

Jagdish was a nuclear power plant structural engineer who was devoted to his job and worked until the day he passed away. He raised his three daughters to believe they could do absolutely anything they set their minds to; all three grew up to be successful physicians.

“Jagdish and I were truly soulmates. We were like two bodies with one shared soul. All our friends used to tease us because we were never apart, always inseparable. When Jagdish left for his heavenly abode, my heart was shattered, but with the grace of God, I was able to think about other people’s suffering and decided to share Jagdish’s love through organ donation,” Sushma recalls.

“I come from a family of giving.  In 1988, my maternal uncle passed away in India. My older sister persuaded my mother to donate his corneas, in spite of resistance from the other family members. My family back home and our three daughters in America all advocate for organ and tissue donation.”

Sushma is well aware of the many myths surrounding organ donation and believes in dispelling these myths through knowledge. She raises awareness about the importance of organ donation and advocates for people to register as organ and tissue donors. If you would  give back during your life, why wouldn’t you continue once you are gone?

Through Jagdish’s donation of his corneas and bones, the lives of 163 people have been improved. Two people have been given the gift of sight with his corneas, and 161 people have been recipients of his bones, allowing them to have life changing surgeries such as dental implants and orthopedic surgeries.

“The recipients are blessed to have a part of Jagdish with them, a piece of the most intelligent, caring, selfless and kind man, who believed in justice, equality and love for all. They are truly blessed. His love has been spread to many and his legacy will be carried on by future generations of our family.”         

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Dave became a Lion in 1971; it will be 49 years in February. Despite relocating with his wife Sandy post retirement, he has remained a member of his original club, 22-D New Castle Hundred Lions Club for all these years. The goal he says, is to make it to the celebratory 50 year milestone there, and beyond. “It was my father-in-law,” Dave recounts “who initially asked me to become a member of the Lions Club. It was a natural fit,” he explains, as he was a member of his college’s service-based fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. “That experience in college is what turned me into the service-oriented person I am today.”

In 1984 Dave became District Governor, and in 1995, almost 20 years ago, Dave took his seat as a Board Member of Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley. Being a Lion is all about leading by example, building relationships and improving the world through kindness, and Dave does just that and then some. When asked about his motivation behind dedicating so much of his life to serving LEBDV’s mission he answered: “seeing firsthand the impact of providing someone with the gift of sight, that’s what this whole organization is founded on. Providing a service that is so beneficial to people. Giving someone their vision back, it’s incredible.”

In recent years Board Members have become even more involved with LEBDV’s events, and Dave is so thankful for this. He recalls attending his first Cornea Recipient Luncheon this past year and describes it as awe-inspiring. “Sitting down to have lunch and getting to talk with the family of a donor, and then getting a chance to meet with a recipient family, it’s really unbelievable.”

Continuing on the topic of getting to see the impact he has made firsthand, since moving to the Southern Delaware Area, Dave has teamed up with a group of Lions who build wheel chair ramps and accessible steps for handicap members of the community. “Just last week” he says, “we built a wide set of steps for a woman with her walker so she could easily go in and out of her house. When she opened the door, you could see the tears in her eyes when she realized that she is now able to get out of the house on her own.”

When Dave is not busy helping his community, he is spending time with his wife, Sandy, their 3 kids, 3 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren!

This is just a small sampling of all the amazing things Dave Jones has done during his time as a Lion and Board Member. Congratulations on celebrating almost 50 years Dave, we cannot wait to see what else you do!

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 Rickey’s Legacy Lives On

Remembering Rickey

“If this could help another child to not have to go through what I do than let’s do it,” Dawn remembers hearing Rickey say. “Where and when” was Rickey’s philosophy as he offered his blood, saliva and time participating in research studies at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “He was always thinking about other people and never expected anything in return,” says Dawn.

Richard Scott Colomy Jr. 3rd, who everyone called Rickey, was born with vascular malformation. As part of Rickey’s life-long care at CHOP, he had endless doctor’s appointments, follow-up visits, surgeries and therapies.

“Something that impressed me about my son was that nobody knew he was sick. If you didn’t know his circumstances, you would never know. With as much as Rickey had gone through, intense and invasive surgeries, it can take a toll on someone’s body and mind but he always smiled. I think that’s what always captivated people. The nurses and surgical coordinators would say that his smile was infectious.”

On January 13, 2015 Rickey had surgery number 18. It took longer than expected. When he was finally in recovery, Rickey came out smiling, but seemed concerned. “He told me that something was different, but couldn’t explain what it was.”

As part of recovery, Rickey was on injections twice a day. He was sore, but that was to be expected. One to never sit around, Rickey began leaving the house again.  He went out to visit his girlfriend and called to check in that night. “I said I love you buddy. He said I love you too Momma”, recalls Dawn. “That was the last time I talked to my son.”

Rickey suffered from a pulmonary embolism and passed away in the middle of the night.

Rickey had a wide range of friends. He never judged people. He accepted everyone. “I didn’t realize how many people relied on Rickey,” Dawn recalled. “There was a young lady that Rickey was friends with since grade school. Her family didn’t have a lot of money and her medication would upset her stomach. She would get nauseous from taking her medication on an empty stomach and so she wouldn’t take it. This young girl truly needed her medication. I found out later that Rickey would bring this girl chips and soda every day to homeroom to make sure she would take her medicine. He had a profound impact on that young lady.”

Rickey was a beautiful, kind and caring soul. Before Rickey passed away he introduced his mother to his friend’s father. “He kept asking me to go out with him, I remember thinking what is wrong with him,” recalls Dawn. After attempting to cancel on a coffee date, Rickey pleaded that she go. John made Dawn the happiest she had been in a long time and Rickey loved him. “Rickey introduced me to my husband,” says Dawn. “He made sure that I was taken care of before he left.”

Dawn honored her son’s wishes to donate his corneas. “It was his decision that he made solely on his own,” says Dawn, “I wasn’t surprised he wanted to be a donor. I couldn’t be more proud, I couldn’t be more pleased. Giving back is Richard.” Rickey’s eyes saved the sight for two individuals.

“Child loss will truly rip you from everything that you are.  It’s been a long journey I but I continue to hear Richard in my ear because after every surgery that Richard would have which was very intense and very invasive,  I would always say to him you don’t give up you keep fighting you keep going and that is what I keep hearing in my head. ‘Don’t give up keep fighting you’re not a quitter.’ And the days when I feel like I can’t get out of bed those are the words that I hear. It’s hard, I do struggle, but then I think of Richard and I know I have to get up today.”

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Tiffany’s Legacy Lives On

By all accounts, Tiffany was an extraordinary young woman, known for her memorable spirit, motivating personality and strong faith. An active student, she graduated from West Philadelphia High School with a resume full of accomplishments, including being named homecoming queen and elected class secretary. She won awards at science fairs and served as an advocate for school reform. Entering Cheyney University in 2008, her mom, Althea, who had worked for Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley for more than 30 years, said, “Tiffany worked hard to excel, despite numerous hospital stays, and she had many accomplishments, such as being appointed secretary for the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality: Cheyney Branch in September 2012. But more important, Tiffany always encouraged and helped her friends and classmates stay on track. She was very giving and always left an impression on the people she met!”  

Unfortunately, Tiffany faced some significant health concerns, and in October 2012, during her senior year at Cheyney, Tiffany died of a pulmonary embolism. The family was heartbroken. While they were unable to donate Tiffany’s organs, the decision to donate her eyes, bone and tissue was a given.

“Since I worked here so long, everyone at the Eye Bank watched Tiffany grow up. She was very familiar with the work we do, and she felt strongly about giving back. I knew we could donate her corneas and help to restore the vision of two individuals. After the surgery, the doctor who transplanted one of her corneas let me know that his patient was already seeing clearer than she had in years. It brought tears to my eyes and I thought to myself, what a beautiful legacy she’s passed on,” said Althea.

“Tiffany’s life wasn’t just a blessing to her family and the recipients who received her gift,” Althea explained. “She left a mark on many. When she passed on, the Cheyney community came together in ways we couldn’t imagine: holding candlelight vigils, busing students to her service and even presenting her an honorary BS degree in May 2013. I am so proud to say that Tiffany accomplished more in her short life than many ever will. And she continues to live through the people she has helped—her family, her friends, her peers and her corneal recipients.”  

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Inspired by Helen Keller’s appeal to help end preventable blindness, and witnessing firsthand through her husband, PID Ted Reiver, all of the amazing work the Lions were doing, Ann felt compelled to join herself in 1999. After joining 20 years ago Ann never looked back. “As a Lion over the years I was very active in my club,” Ann explains. “I’ve been President a few times, and am currently the secretary. As a Past District Governor, Ted and I took part in many different district events. We became involved in a lot of activities and organizations outside of our own club.”

“The more we’ve done, the more we want to do,” Ann says about her active role in Lions Club. “When the Delaware Trustees asked if I’d like to be a Board Member, it was an easy yes. I truly love the Eye Bank, and the idea of having a greater role in assisting and working with them was exciting to me.” Ann has since devoted her time and talents to serve as a member of various committees including human resources, budget and finance, audit review and fundraising. She is constantly reminded of the profound impact eye donation has for both cornea transplant recipients and donor families.

Ann modestly states how the Board rotates through Chairs, and because of this model it was her turn to be Chair of the Board last year.  She explains how due to her more reserved personality, “If it wasn’t for this model of picking the Chair, I am not sure if I would have stepped forward on my own. That being said, I am so happy it worked out like this because I love being on the Board and being the Chair. Plus, the staff at the Eye Bank is so incredible, they do so much, that they make my job easy!”

Besides being the second woman ever to be Chair of the Board, and one of only 3 female Board members, Ann is also the first Chair of the Board to serve a 2 year term! In recent years Board Members have become even more involved with LEBDV’s events, and Ann is so thankful for this. “The changes in the Eye Bank since I have been on the Board are truly remarkable. The Gratis Tissue Fund, the amount of involvement and contact we now have with recipients and donor families. It’s awe-inspiring. The fact that I am currently on the phone with a recipient who now works at LEBDV, getting to watch Mila run around and Kacey grow up—it is so impactful.”

Ann loves the emphasis being placed on showcasing real people’s stories. “Showing the community how their efforts and donations are directly changing people’s lives—it’s moving and impactful.” One of Ann’s favorite LEBDV events is the Annual Cornea Recipient Luncheon for this very reason. “It is a chance for members of the community, from recipients and staff to donor families and Lions to come together to celebrate this wonderful gift and incredible sacrifice. It is so impactful for a recipient to speak firsthand about how a transplant has changed their life.”

When Anne is not busy running the Board and helping her community, you can find her probably still spending time with Lions! “A lot of our friends are Lions, which honestly is one of the best parts about being in this organization,” Ann says. “The amount of friends and connections we’ve made as Lions is incredible.”  Ann and Ted also have lots of grandkids to keep them on their toes. Their family accompanied them to the Phillies baseball game and tailgate last month, and they always attend the Annual Cornea Recipient Luncheon.

We feel so lucky to have such an incredible woman as the Chair of the Board. Thank you for your service and commitment Ann. We cannot wait to see what this term brings for you!

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1st VDG Art Pecht has been a member of The Honey Brook Lions Club for the past 18 years, and a huge supporter of Lions Eye Bank. If you have ever attended any LEBDV events, then you have definitely seen or met Art, as he is always the first one there to set up, help out, or work the grill. Art was drawn to the Lions Club initially because he was motivated to give his time and energy to others. Almost two decades later, and he is still doing just that!

Prior to his Lion days, Art and his wife owned and worked at Conrad’s Deli in York, PA; and up until very recently he was the Receiving Manager at Target in Exton, PA. Just because Art is retired however, in no way means he is slowing down. In fact, it is quite the opposite. “I feel the way the world is, in today’s situation, we should try to leave it in a better place than when we found it,” Art says. “That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m retired, so I’m able to give my time and energy to giving back.” Not only does Art help with so many LEBDV events, through his Lions Club he is also involved with the local Fire and Police Departments, Food Pantries, and so much more.

“To me, the most motivating part of the work we do is when we see someone who has actually benefited from something we helped them with.” Continuing on the topic of his motivation to do the work he does, Art goes back to the early days of Lions Clubs. “Helen Keller challenged us to be knights of the blind. It is so important. Helping people see through corneal transplants, it is an extremely important aspect of what we do.” A specific story that comes to mind for Art is when he and his Lions Club helped a woman pay for her cataract surgery. “She was having a special type of cataract surgery where she needed an additional implant, and it was very expensive. She didn’t have the means to pay for it so our club raised the money for her. She was so elated, and has now come out to help with White Cane, our fundraiser that happens twice a year!”

In addition to the big impact he makes on people’s lives, Art loves the Lion community. “No matter where you go when you’re a Lion, there is an amazing camaraderie and fellowship.” Some of his favorite annual LEBDV events are the Gift of Sight Charity Golf Classic, and Gift of Life’s Donor Dash that we always support.

When Art is not helping LEBDV, the Honey Brook Fire Police Department, or local Food Pantries, he enjoys working woodworking and spending time with his wife, 5 children, and 2 grandchildren.

This is just a small sampling of all the amazing things Art Pecht has done during his time as a Lion. Thank you so much for all of your help and hard work Art; we cannot wait to see what else you do!

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Earl has been a part of the Lion’s Club since 1983 and has held various important positions during his time as a Lion. He has served as both Vice President and President of his local Lion’s Club, and eventually became a District Governor. After his time as District Governor, Earl became part of Lions Eye Research Foundation to help raise money for the research of eye diseases. Earl describes his fellow Lions as being very dedicated and supportive of each other and loves to be surrounded by such great people.

Earl was initially drawn into the Lion’s Club by his two brothers. They are both visually impaired and have some struggles with everyday life like being unable to obtain a driver’s license. He is proud to be part of an organization that can help individuals gain the gift of sight. Earl considers the most inspiring aspect of his work to be hearing the personal stories of both donors and transplant recipients. He believes there is a greater force than people can comprehend that creates the donor and transplant recipient relationships. Earl hopes that donation, especially cornea transplants, will receive more awareness and individuals will not take their sight for granted.

Earl is very excited for his transition from Board Member to Chair of the Board. While he is aware of the upcoming challenges that Covid-19 has brought to procedures at LEBDV, he is confident that with his talented Board Members and the amazing staff, there is nothing the Eye Bank cannot do.

When he is not working with the Lions, Earl enjoys spending time with his family, including his wife, two daughters, and four grandchildren. He is passionate about cars and has been the president of the Dodge Brothers Club for the past four years. Earl was in the Marine Reserves for six years and attained the rank of Sergeant. He spent most of his career as a mason, eventually becoming a Master Mason, and even opened his own business for masonry work in 1979.

Being a Lion is about leading by example, building relationships and improving the world through kindness; Earl Groendyke definitely embodies all of these characteristics, and we are so honored to have him as the next Chair of the Board!

Thank you for all you do, Earl!

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Jerilyn Giardina, a Shippensburg University alumna, has been with Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley for five years. Prior to her arrival, the eye bank did not have much communication with recipients. Jerilyn realized how impactful personal stories could be for people and began involving recipients more and more.

Jerilyn created the recipient kits that all eye surgeons now have in their offices. These kits get sent home with recipients post transplantation to help educate them about the eye bank, where their tissue came from, and how to reach out to their donor family.

Through these recipient kits, we have met countless of incredible recipients and donor families and listened to their inspiring stories that would have otherwise went unheard.

Jerilyn has also worked tirelessly on creating impactful events that really emphasis the life-changing impact of corneal transplantation. The Annual Cornea Transplant Recipient Luncheon is one of these events. Next month will be the fifth year of this incredible event where recipients and donor families come together to share stories and learn from one another.

From the annual forSight newsleter to the Phillies tailgates, we could go on and on about all of Jerilyn’s amazing work and how much she means to this organization.

Jerilyn is currently at home with her beautiful baby boy, Elliot Henry Giardina! She and her husband, Nick, welcomed Elliot into the world on Wednesday, February 19, 2020. We could not be more happy or excited for her and her family.

Thank you for all you do for this organization every single day Jerilyn! We can’t wait to see you and Elliot very soon!

Sign up for our
25th Annual
Gift of Sight Charity Golf Classic

Monday, August 12th, 2019