Dublin Lions Club
Man able to obtain driver's license after gift of sight
The Dublin Lions Club doesn't often have the chance to meet someone their work helps.
But Ron Gillespie offered that opportunity when he approached the club about funding a bioptic lens so he could get his driver's license at age 40.
"We raise money and then typically donate it to things like seeing eye dogs, but we don't actually have that person come to the club," Dublin Lions Club past president Steve Henck said. "We don't typically get to meet and greet the person we're helping. That made this situation pretty unique for us."
Gillespie was familiar with the Lions Club, but it was his mother who ultimately suggested going to the club for funding.
"I went online to Lions Club International and did a search and found Steve's name. He said he would be interested in hearing my story," he said.
Gillespie's story begins with congenital myopia, which causes nearsightedness. Gillespie's optical disability goes further than that, though. His optic nerve is missing cones and rods which causes serious vision problems.
"I have problems distinguishing colors and focusing at length," he said. "Part of the problem is the back of my eye where the image would be is misshapen."
Gillespie's vision can be helped with glasses or contact lenses, but until he found out about a bioptic lens he was told his vision would never be good enough to drive.
"Even though I may see clearly, I can't see acutely," he said.
During a visit to the eye doctor to get a new contact lens prescription, Gillespie was told about a bioptic lens and that he could be a candidate for the highly-selective program. The lens was expensive though and Gillespie contacted the Dublin Lions Club.
"The entire club got behind it and they basically moved mountains to get the funding I needed," Gillespie said.
After hearing Gillespie's story it was easy to get involved, Henck said.
And since helping Gillespie, he has started attending Lions Club meetings and helping the club out. Gillespie built a new web page for the club and maintains it.
"For me it's a lot better when you get to feel and hear what you're doing," Henck said.
"It's been great. Not only do we have a guy who wants to help, but one of his personal goals is to increase awareness."
With the bioptic lens, Gillespie was able to do something people told him he'd never do: get a driver's license.
Gillespie felt left behind in high school when his friends started driving and he was stuck at home. With the ability to drive, Gillespie is planning a better job and a car.
"Being able to get the bioptic lens and pass the driver's test is a far more symbolic accomplishment that has been a lifetime in the making," he said. "That's what it means to me. Yes, I have the ability to drive, but I accomplished something I was told I could never do."
Gillespie is planning to join the Dublin Lions Club soon and Henck said the club is accepting new members.
"We're always look for membership and always looking for companies that want to help," Henck said. "If there are people that need help and have visual impairments we want to help."
The group meets at 7:30 a.m. the first and third Friday of each month from September through May at Trillium Place, 3500 Trillium Crossing.
For more information, look online at dublinlionsclub.com.