Founded in October of 1950, Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund, Inc. (MLERF) has one primary purpose. Their purpose is to help assist researchers with the seed capital that is sorely needed to provide vital research for visual diseases and disorders. Massachusetts Lions bridge the gap that exists between a researcher getting started with their research and being able to secure funding from larger sources of grants such as National Institutes of Health (NIH).
How did MLERF get started?
During 1950 it was brought to the attention of Lions that there was a higher than normal rate of blindness in babies who were born prematurely. This was caused by a disease known as “Retrolental Fibroplasia” but the cause of the disease was unknown and there were no funds available for researchers to find out.
The Lions stepped in to help meet this need led by Lion E. Daniel Johnson who was serving as District Governor at the time. Reaching out to the Lions Clubs in Massachusetts, Lion Johnson and other Lions in Massachusetts formed the first Massachusetts Lion Eye Research Fund board of directors in 1952. In 1953, the Lions Clubs of Multiple District 33 (Massachusetts) adopted MLERF as the first project that would be undertaken on a state-wide level.
What about the blind babies?
Thankfully through the generous donations of Lions Clubs across Massachusetts, the cause of Retrolental Fibroplasia was discovered. As it turned out there was a valve that cost a mere $.05 (yes, five cents) that could be placed in incubators to control the flow of oxygen. The disease (known as blind baby disease) could be controlled using these valves.
What has MLERF done since then?
From their modest beginnings in the 50’s Massachusetts Lions Eye Research has continued to raise funds throughout Massachusetts from Lions Clubs. During that time they have helped fund research into various disorders of the eye including Retinitis Pigmentosa, Macular Degeneration and other devastating eye diseases. From those humble beginnings, Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund, Inc. has made grants exceeding $27 million dollars.
Cornea transplants were once a serious challenge because of the time that it could take from removal to transplants. Thanks to research that was funded by MLERF, corneas can now be stored for up to five days allowing plenty of time to transplant the cornea. In addition, MLERF was also responsible for the seed funding which allowed the first laser to be designed and put into use at Boston University. In fact, to this day, Boston University maintains a “Lions Eye Research Laboratory” at their school of medicine.
What percentage of donations are used for grants?
Like all Lions related activities, we have very strict fund-raising requirements. Any funds that are donated to Massachusetts Lions Eye Research must be used for the purpose that it was intended. None of these funds may be used for administrative costs of running the corporation. To enable us to maintain the organization, we deposit all donations into interest-bearing accounts and we run the day-to-day operations of the organization entirely on earned interest. 100% of all of the donated funds are then awarded in grants.
How does MLERF raise funds?
As a 501(c)(3) Corporation, MLERF receives the bulk of their funding from the Lions Clubs of Massachusetts. From time to time we have had corporate sponsors who have donated money to aid with specific grants. As with any other charitable organization, we are constantly seeking new donors.
Where can I learn more?
Additional information about MLERF may be obtained by visiting the Mass Lions Eye Research Fund, Inc. website. There are various links that show what facilities the organization supports as well as information about making donations and links to contact board members.