Donors, recipients to meet at Lion’s Eye gala

TAMPA, FL (WFLA) — The world’s largest eye bank and cutting edge vision research center is in Tampa’s historic Ybor City. For nearly a decade now the Lion’s Eye Institute for Transplant & Research holds a special event to celebrate advancements made at its facility. This year will be especially heartwarming, as donors and recipients get the chance to meet.

“I thank you, the gift of your son’s, his legacy moves on,” said cornea transplant recipient Robert Perez talking to Dawn and Michael Futch, their 19-year-old son lost his life in an automobile accident and was an organ and tissue donor.

Perez explains how this is a game changer for recipients like himself, who at one point his vision had become so impaired he could not work, drive or spend quality time with his three young children. “It’s priceless to be able to read bed time stories to them, go to ball games, and soccer games. Just to be able to experience Disney World with my children is amazing, it’s as simple as that,” Perez said.

The Futch Family has gone out of their way to meet the families of most of the recipients who are thriving today because of their son’s decision to donate his organs and tissues. “Being able to open up our heart to them and let them into our life and be part of our family has turned out to be a very big blessing,” said Dawn Futch.

The Futch family will be at the Lion’s Eye annual gala to meet other donor families and recipients along with community leaders supporting the institute because of its ground breaking traction in the fight against blinding eye disease.

“Not only will we be honoring community leaders, but we will welcoming top researchers,” said Jason Woody, Lion’s Eye CEO. This weekend’s Mardi Gras-themed party is open to the public. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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