Mt. Cheam Lions focusing on big goal

Lions club raising $600,000 to update eye surgery equipment for Chilliwack's innovative eye centre

Dr. David Heinrichs performs cataract surgery on a patient in January 2015 at the Chilliwack Eye Centre at Chilliwack General Hospital. The Mt. Cheam Lions are working on raising  $600

Dr. David Heinrichs performs cataract surgery on a patient in January 2015 at the Chilliwack Eye Centre at Chilliwack General Hospital. The Mt. Cheam Lions are working on raising $600

$600,000 is a lofty fundraising goal, but if anyone can do it, it’s the Lions.

The Mt. Cheam Lions are working hard to raise the cash for the Chilliwack Eye Centre at CGH. They kicked off the fundraising drive in February of this year, as a Centennial Legacy Project, giving themselves a deadline of Dec. 31.

They have already tipped over the halfway point and have about $360,000 in the coffers, ready to spend on updated equipment for the centre’s two surgery rooms.

And this week, they received their first major corporate sponsorship, with a cheque from Mertins GM for $5,000.

They’re hoping that big donation will “kick start” more businesses to consider giving to the cause. Lions have been involved with improving eyesight internationally for decades, and in 1925 the organization was urged on in that endeavor by Helen Keller herself.

“She challenged us to be knights for the blind,” says Al Hunt, the past chair of the Centennial Legacy Project committee. In 1984, it was the local Lions who purchased Chilliwack’s first laser eye surgery machine. Back in those days, having eye surgery meant lengthy wait times, long surgeries, and days and weeks of recovery time.

Now, cataract patients check in and out in the same day and the surgery time has been sliced down to seven minutes.

Dave Mackintosh is the current chair of the project committee.

He’s excited to be bringing Mertins on board with the project, as the entire Mertin family is considered a leader in the community.

“I respect that the Lions dream big,” Paul Mertin says. “Hopefully this helps them get to that ‘big goal.'”

Mertins has 190 employees over their three sites, so they are keenly aware that helping build up the eye centre could benefit someone in their business family, if it hasn’t already.

“One of us might need it one day,” Mertin adds. “It’s great to have it in our community.”

“Without donations like this, we would not be able to hit our target,” Mackintosh says. But that’s also true of the Lions members. There are 17 members on the committee, and overall their club has put in over 2,000 volunteer hours toward this project, through fundraisers like raffle tables and pancake breakfasts.

Their eventual $600,000 contribution will bring the innovative eye care centre up to speed with the latest equipment. Technology changes fast in the medical world, and the successful Chilliwack centre is being noticed and studied by professionals all over North America.

It makes it easy for the Lions to choose to support it, Mackintosh says.

“It’s so efficient,” he adds. The centre sees 25 patients a day, and 5,300 a year and is staffed by a roster of local ophthalmologists.

To help the Mt. Cheam Lions reach their goal by Dec. 31, or to find updates on the project including upcoming fundraisers visit www.fvhcf.ca.

jpeters@theprogress.com