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Lakewood and Sunnyvale Lions team up to help beloved volunteer regain her sight

Thanks to the quick actions of Lakewood’s principal, a District Nurse, and the Sunnyvale Host Lions service club, a beloved school volunteer and family member has regained her sight.

It was at last year’s fall performance of Aladdin Jr. that Lakewood Principal Pamela Cheng noticed Lina being guided into the multipurpose room by her nephew because her sight had degraded so badly.

“I told them to meet me in my office after the performance to figure out what was wrong and how we could help,” Cheng said.

It turns out that Lina had developed cataracts in both eyes but didn’t have the medical coverage she needed to take care of it.

Lina has helped raise seven nieces and nephews all of whom have graduated from Lakewood. She has been a dedicated volunteer in the school’s garden, in the classroom, and out of the classroom.

The very next day Dr. Cheng connected with one of the District nurses, Risa Bernasconi, to see if she knew of any resources that might be able to help Lina get the appropriate care. That’s when she thought about the Lions Service Club, whose core mission is to help community members with vision problems.

“I knew that the Lions club helps with all things related to vision, from helping cover the cost of eye surgeries to helping with eyeglasses, so I called and they were responsive instantly,” Bernasconi said.

Tasked to be the Knights of the Blind by Helen Keller in 1925, the Lions Club’s strategic objective is to prevent avoidable blindness and to improve the quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired. The Sunnyvale Lions happily partnered with the school to coordinate everything she needed in order to prepare for the eye surgery. She had to get a medical release from a doctor for the eye surgery and that’s when they found out Lina was also diabetic.

“She had to get her diabetes under control before she could be approved to undergo the surgery,” Cheng said.

“Then COVID hit and all elective surgeries were canceled,” Bernasconi added.

But the extra time allowed Lina to get her diabetes under control. When elective surgeries were finally permitted once again Lina was scheduled for her eye surgery.

“I’ve always been concerned about the kids and how they are doing,” Lina said.

“As people, women especially, we tend to ignore our own problems and any warning signs that we might have about our own health,” said Suzie DeUnger, past Sunnyvale Host Lions Club president and current Club Service Chair. “But we just keep going.”

That is why Suzie and her husband, Bob DeUnger a former District Governor and current Secretary for the Host Lions Club, were so happy to help take care of Lina’s health needs and to give back to someone who has given so much to her nieces and nephews, the school, and community.

She had a successful surgery at the Lions Eye Foundation in San Francisco in October. In the fiscal year of 2019-2020 alone, the Lions Eye Foundation provided over $5,215,760 of eye care procedures all at no cost to the patients.

Once she had time to fully heal, the group met for the first time (from a distance and in masks) in November, a year after beginning the process to get her healthy once again.

“There are people who might be strangers but they have kindness in their hearts and they shared that with me,” Lina said. “I just feel blessed and I will not take that for granted. I’m thankful and grateful for the people in my life right now. People who I never met before I was blind. I thought about them every day and am so grateful and thankful.”

“That is what being a Lion is all about,” Bob said.

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