For this week’s Favorite Friend Friday, I had the honor of sitting down to chat with the Chair of the Board of Trustees, LEBDV’s very own PCT Ann E. Reiver. 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!
This week we are featuring our youngest friend yet: (almost) 16 month old Mila Stier! Mila was our Cover Girl for our previous forSight newsletter, and her and her parents Megan and Luke have been involved with us ever since!
Mila has a very rare condition called Peter’s Anomaly—so rare that only 3-4 out of every 100,000 babies are born with it. Because this condition is so rare, there are so many unknowns surrounding it. Mila’s mom Megan explains that when her daughter was born at Pennsylvania Hospital, the onsite ophthalmologist who came in to check her eyes gave them very little hope. “She told us basically that there was no hope of ever doing a transplant on her left eye because it was too small and had a cataract. And if we did a transplant on her right eye, the most she’d ever be able to see is shadows and light.” You can imagine the panic and fear first-time parents would feel hearing that from a doctor. “She basically told us there’s no hope, don’t even bother.”
After countless hours of research and googling, Megan and Luke came across an Eye Bank in Kansas who had featured a little girl with Peters Anomaly on their website. Megan reached out to the Eye Bank asking to be put in contact with this mom. Megan recalls, “Her story sounded so much like my daughter’s, but her outcome sounded so much better!” Through this contact the Stiers eventually found Wills Eye, where their daughter’s vision was saved. “That’s why I really want to share our story,” Megan says, “because I feel like it could help people that might not know that Wills Eye is the best place to go around here for kids with PA.”
While Megan and Luke were presented with the option to have Mila’s right eye transplanted as well, they opted not to, as their doctor was able to remove some scar tissue to improve the vision. “For now we have decided to wait with her right eye. When she’s old enough, she’ll be able to decide if she wants a transplant,” Megan says. This past Monday Mila had to go back to Wills for another procedure—one that she has had done three times already, to remove a mass of lens cells that keeps coming back under her transplant. “Her doctors have never seen anything like this before,” Megan explains, “they still can’t be sure if all the cells were removed, but it looks hopeful.”
Today, 8 surgeries later, Mila is walking, running, and playing like any other 16 month old! October 17, less than two weeks from now, is actually the 1 year anniversary of her transplant! “Her vision surprises us every single day,” Megan remarks. “When she was born, we weren’t sure if she would even be able to walk or run around. It is so obvious now that she has a good amount of useable vision. She is able to see really tiny pieces of cookie crumbs off of the floor. Just the other day I had a tiny string on my pant leg, and Mila found it and pulled it. It was pretty incredible that she could see something so small!”
Through Lions Eye Bank, Wills Eye, and the internet, Megan and Luke have developed a support group of sorts of other parents of children with Peters Anomaly. “It’s really nice to have this support group of moms who can relate to what you’re going through.”
We are so grateful that Mila and her parents were brought into our life last year. They are an amazing addition to our community, and we love getting to watch Mila continue to grow and explore the world with her newfound vision.