$600,000 in donations.
It’s a steep goal, but the Mount Cheam Lions are determined to achieve it.
Fortunately, the donations are pooling for a Chilliwack program that is widely-used and respected across the province – the Eye Centre at CGH.
As Lions Club International prepares to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2017, they’ve challenged their clubs to come up with with a legacy project.
Dave Mackintosh, who is relatively new to the Mount Cheam Lions club, has stepped up to chair this ambitious task.
“I suggested that we do something for the Eye Centre because the Lions are really into sight as a topic,” he said. He was referring to Helen Keller’s challenge at the Lions Club International Convention in 1925, to become “Knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”
Accepting the challenge, the Lions’ work has included sight programs aimed at preventable blindness ever since.
And what better city to leave a legacy of sight than Chilliwack, where the innovative “gem” of an eye centre treats an average of 25 cataract patients per day.
The CGH Eye Centre is the only public, high-volume cataract centre in the province, completing approximately 5,300 procedures annually on patients who come from as far away as the Interior region.
Mackintosh got in touch with Elizabeth Harris, Executive Director of the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation to determine how best to support the centre.
He suggested that they fundraise for two new cataract surgery machines (Phacoemulsification Systems), which are valued at about $300,000 a piece.
The two machines that they use now are eight years old.
“When we bought them, they were top of the line,” Harris pointed out. “But so many years later, it’s time to upgrade.”
It’s like getting a new car after driving the same one for seven to eight years, she said. “The newer model has the upgraded features, better safety… heated seats,” she laughed.
Staying up-to-date with the latest technology is crucial in the healthcare industry. If equipment surpasses its shelf-life and things start to break down, it will have a huge impact for patients, particularly in a centre that serves so many on any given day.
But it can be challenging for hospitals to get the funding necessary to upgrade to newer equipment. They all have wish lists.
“The generous support from groups like the Lions really makes a difference,” Harris explained. “This is a wonderful gift.”
Dr. David Heinrichs, one of the clinic’s six ophthalmologists, immediately realized the benefits of two upgraded machines.
“The beauty and the advantage of the system here is that we have two operating rooms side-by-side, which allows the surgeon to go back and forth between them,” he said.
The efficiency and safety of the CGH Eye Centre model has been observed and emulated by other hospitals across the country.
“It’s a very good system. It’s superb,” he said.
But it’s a daunting task for hospitals to keep up with the ever-advancing technology. “The new equipment is going to take us to the next level,” Dr. Heinrichs added, carrying the centre for what he hopes would be the next six to ten years.
The Mount Cheam and Steller’s Jay Lions club members “took a bit of a gasp” when Mackintosh initially brought forward his big idea, but they were quick to express their support.
“It’s going to take a lot of time, and a lot of people. We’re really going to depend on the community and surrounding areas to help us out,” Mackintosh explained.
But they have a plan to make it happen.
The goal is to raise $600,000 by December 31, 2016. They’ll have a variety of unique and creative fundraisers throughout the year to bring the community together, and they’re calling on local businesses and community clubs to make a pledge.
“Think about how much money we could raise if everyone who had cataract surgery at the centre donated $5,” Mackintosh said. Or perhaps, all the people who have a family member or friend who benefited from the surgery.
When Mackintosh joined the club in May, he had no idea he would take on such a large project so soon. All he knew was that he wanted to give back.
But he’s well-prepared from a 40-year career running multi-million dollar hospital projects and renovations.
“I’m running this just like I would any other project,” he said. “It’ll be really good for the club, and it’s going to help a lot of people.”
The unveiling of the project fundraising thermometer is Feb. 25 at the front grounds of CGH, beginning at 2 p.m.
To find updates on the project, upcoming fundraisers, and to donate visit www.fvhcf.ca.