Poulsbo Lions raising funds during White Cane Days

POULSBO — Pauline Ostheller volunteered for years for the Northwest Lions Foundation for Sight and Hearing in Seattle, never thinking she’d benefit from her work.

The Northwest Lions Foundation for Sight and Hearing’s eye bank, known as SightLife, makes corneas available for transplant. Every year the Poulsbo Noon Lions and Evening Branch Pride participate in White Cane Days to raise money for the foundation.

Ostheller participated in White Cane Days for five years as a member of the Poulsbo Noon Lions. When she was diagnosed with Fuchs Dystrophy in 2003 and needed a cornea transplant, the event hit home.

“The outcome is good. I can definitely see where I wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” she said.

This weekend, the Lions will be back on the streets, with white canes and orange vests, raising money for the foundation.

The Poulsbo Noon Lions and Evening Pride Branch Lions will be all over North Kitsap today and Saturday. The event raises money to help children and adults regain their sight and maintain their independence. White canes are a symbol for the visually impaired, Noon Lions president Mike Regis said.

Karl Ostheller, Pauline Ostheller’s husband and a Lion since 2000, will also be out in the community for White Cane days this weekend. Part of his approach is to explain the significance of the white cane and ask passersby if they were aware of the meaning.

“Some people do and some people don’t and some people are willing to donate and other people duck their heads and go right on by,” he said.

The Lions will be canvassing local gathering places like the Kingston Albertson’s and Poulsbo’s Central Market, WalMart, Albertson’s, The Red Apple Market and downtown Poulsbo.

“Our more notorious Lions are the ones that stand downtown at the cross-streets and stop traffic or at the stop sign and have a jar out to take in collections,” Karl Ostheller said.

They plan to be out in force, collecting donations from 10 a.m. until about 3 p.m.

For Pauline Ostheller, the event has raised more than awareness. She suffered from Fuchs Dystrophy, a rare inherited eye disorder that causes fluid to build up in the cornea as the cells that line the back surface of the cornea, deteriorate and die off. It made her vision very foggy, like swimming in a chlorine pool with her eyes open, she said.

Both of her eyes needed, and received, cornea transplants. She owes her eyes to the Northwest Lions Foundation for Sight and Hearing.

“Our Lions club visited (the Northwest Lions Foundation for Sight and Hearing) and toured it about a month before my cornea transplant, which was kind of cool,” Pauline Ostheller said.

Her husband said that during their tour her information, among others, was on display for upcoming transplants.

Last year the local Lions clubs were able to raise about $4,000 during their White Cane Days. They hope to meet or exceed that amount this year, Regis said.

The Northwest Lions Foundation for Sight and Hearing obtained 4,003 corneas last year. The foundation also helps low-income families pay for sight-related surgeries and assistive technology.

“Eyesight is a primary necessity of living. We live in a very visual world,” Regis said. “(White Cane Days) is a big one; that is our primary function as an organization.”

It began in 1925, when Helen Keller attended the Lions Clubs International Convention and asked all Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” Since that request, the Lions have made “sight” a focal part for many of their campaigns, Regis said.

“People donate everything from 10 cents to whatever they like,” Regis said. “Sometimes we hear stories about people who have benefited from the cornea transplants. It’s our biggest efforts on behalf of the world at large.”

For more information, email, or contact Mike Regis, (360) 621-5136.

The Poulsbo Noon Lions meet every Thursday at 12:15 p.m. at First Lutheran Church Social Hall, 18920 4th Ave. NE. The Evening Pride Branch meet the first and third Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at St. Olaf Church Religious Education Building, 18943 Caldart Ave NE.

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