By JESSI SMITH
Because of a donation from the Sarasota Lions Club, an ophthalmic surgical table will be purchased for the Southeastern Guide Dogs’ veterinary facility in Palmetto.
Members of the Lions presented the $5,000 donation during a luncheon Oct. 3 at the Southeastern Guide Dogs’ Discovery Center in downtown Sarasota.
The donation came after the Lions Club Council of Governors visited the Palmetto facility, where dogs are bred and trained to eventually be matched with a visually impaired person.
During the visit, Southeastern Guide Dogs CEO Titus Herman challenged the Lions to fund an eye clinic at the Palmetto facility so the puppies’ vision could be screened at various stages during their training.
“We had recently taken a group of dogs that were ready to be matched with their new owners to the vet for a final checkup,” recalled Helen Arnold, community outreach coordinator for Southeastern Guide Dogs. “During the visit, we discovered that three of the dogs had cataracts and couldn’t be placed. Sophisticated equipment could have prevented that.”
In response to Herman’s challenge, Arnold said, the International Lions Club agreed to match 50 percent of the funds generated by the Florida Lions to put toward the clinic.
The Sanibel-Captiva Lions presented Southeastern Guide Dogs with a $10,000 for ophthalmological equipment, staff training and reference material for the clinic’s prescreening room.
The $5,000 that the Sarasota Lions donated will fund the purchase of a surgical table for the clinic, said Dr. Jerry Edington, director of Breeding and Veterinary Services at Southeastern Guide Dogs.
“Prior to this, we had no place to conduct the eye exams,” Edington said. “We had to do them on the floor.
“Thanks to the Lions’ generous donations, we now have a specific place to do the eye exams. Now that we have a much more controlled setting, we no longer run the risk of missing anything or damaging the equipment.”
Edington said the table also will be suitable for physicals and dental procedures, making it an important multipurpose addition to the veterinary facility.
Locally, the Lions were one of the first organizations that helped Southeastern Guide Dogs get off the ground, Sarasota Lion Bill Riley said.
The Lions also have made several contributions to Paws for Patriots, a Southeastern Guide Dogs program that pairs veterans with guide dogs, veteran assistance dogs and therapy dogs.
The money provided for the eye clinic and surgical table is some of the first to be donated by the Lions for a specific purpose, Riley said.
“Historically, the Lions have always been great supporters to guide dog schools,” said Marjorie Singer, a Lions Club member and the outreach coordinator at Southeastern Guide Dogs. “What they do is absolutely paramount to the future of guide dog organizations everywhere.”