After 30 years as the Executive Director of the Lions Eye Bank of Nebraska, L. Christi Kjar has announced her retirement as of June 30th, 2020. The Lions Eye Bank of Nebraska was established 60 years ago, and Kjar has led the organization for half its existence.
“I am so proud of the organization, our mission, vision and values. We have come a long way in helping those with visual challenges by evaluating and preparing quality corneal tissue for transplantation and adapting to the ever-changing needs of the surgeons we serve as new, better techniques in eye surgeries have developed” said Kjar. “Over the last 30 years, we have had over 3,300 corneal donors who gave the gift of sight to over 6,200 people.”
Kjar will still be involved with day to day activities on a part-time basis for the remainder of 2020, but as of July 1st, Thomas Neal will take over as the Chief Executive Officer. Neal has many years in the non-profit arena, most recently as the Executive Director for Help Medical Equipment.
“I am excited to lead the Lions Eye Bank of Nebraska into the future, continuing where Christi left off. We have some great things planned regarding expanded services as well as opportunities for research, in partnership with various organizations and universities,” said Neal. “I want to ensure that our focus moving forward is to provide a lasting, positive impact on the vision needs of people everywhere while celebrating our donors, who gave so unselfishly through eye donation.”
To become a registered donor, please go to www.EyeBankNebraska.org, or simply mark yes to organ, tissue and eye donation on your driver’s license or state ID.
The Lions Eye bank of Nebraska is a 501(c3) non-profit. The Eye Bank serves as the vital link between donors and recipients in providing the precious gift of sight. Donation of eye tissue allows corneal and scleral transplantation resulting in enhanced lives. The cornea is the clear tissue that covers the colored part of the eye. Light passes through it, reaching the retina, giving sight. Genetic conditions, illness or injury may result in scarring or clouding of the cornea that can result in vision impairment or blindness. Donated cornea tissue may be used to restore vision.
The Eye Bank was established in 1960 with the help of the Nebraska Lions State Convention when in 1959, the Bellevue Nebraska Lions Club proposed founding an Eye Tissue Bank. The Lions of Nebraska voted unanimously in favor of the project.
Across the state, Lions increased the number of eye tissue donors by providing donation cards and organizing donor drives. Recovery kits were assembled and distributed across the state. In 1960, the Lions Eye Bank of Nebraska became established at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine.
In 1969, the Lions of Nebraska accepted the responsibility and challenge of raising $250,000 to construct a facility that would have space for patient care, student instruction, research and a new home for the Eye Bank. Lions clubs across the state participated in fundraising activities to meet this goal. On February 16, 1974, ground was broken for the facility. On May 10, 1975, the Lions presented the key to the new building, where we are located to this day at 38th and Dewey.
For questions regarding this release, please contact Thomas Neal at Tom.Neal@unmc.edu or call 402-559-4646.