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Used glasses wanted: Lions Club will deliver them to Mexico

For over a decade, local eye doctor Armand Radke and his wife, Mari, have been traveling to Mexico in partnership with the Detroit Lakes Lions Club and the organization “Eyes for Mexico.”

The annual trips to Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan allow volunteers the opportunity to deliver glasses and medical services to impoverished areas, benefitting thousands of people.

“I think in medicine there’s always a need to give back,” Radke said of his decade of philanthropic efforts.

This year, the introduction of a new element is further enhancing the program.

A bus has been commissioned to collect donated eye glasses and medical equipment, which will be driven to the border and transferred to a partnered Lions Club situated in Mexico.

In addition to serving as a method to bring supplies to Mazatlan, the bus will also yield the future benefits of providing transportation to volunteers when they travel to Mexico, and the ability to bring in patients from outlying areas that otherwise wouldn’t be able to receive service.

“The main thing is to provide eye care and eye ware for those people that can’t afford it,” Radke said of the program’s goal.

The bus will be parked off Washington Avenue in the Sanford Clinic lot, collecting donated eyeglasses before being sent to Mexico at the end of August.

In addition, Mari Radke has begun to establish a dance school in Mexico, and is seeking donations of dance wear for her students.

Radke noted that in Mazatlan, a city of around 750,000 people, roughly 500,000 don’t have adequate health care. Simple things like reading glasses, which many people take for granted, hold the power to change lives in Mexico.

In the two week span that the Lions have volunteered, an average of 1,500 patients are treated, and Radke expressed hopes that with the aid of additional ophthalmologists, including his son Philip, the program may be extended to a month of service each year in the future.

“I think the program will just continue to expand as Philip gets more and more into his residency,” Radke said of the future of “Eyes for Mexico.”

In addition to supplying glasses, the volunteers also treat eye problems including complications from diabetes, and cataracts, though surgeries can only be performed in a relatively limited capacity.

The organization hopes to establish more permanent clinic sites in the future, enhancing the ability to treat additional patients.

“It makes you feel good when you can help somebody and it’s life changing,” Radke said, reflecting on one situation where providing reading glasses to a seamstress restored her ability to work and provide meals for her family.

Contact the Lions Club of Detroit Lakes to make a financial donation or to contribute glasses and dance attire, support which will help to further improve the missions in Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas and ensure that the program can continue to make a difference in the years ahead.

Libby Larson | DL Newspapers