Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute Foundation (RMLEIF)

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The Foundation's Story

In the late 1980’s, Lions Club members in Colorado and Wyoming envisioned the creation of a major eye center that would serve the Rocky Mountain region, which then lacked a comprehensive center for the care of vision problems and eye disease. In 1991, dreams started to become reality as Lions formed the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute Foundation (RMLEIF, pronounced "rem-leaf") to raise half the funding for the project, with the other half provided by the University of Colorado. A decade later, a world-class center for vision research, education and care opened its doors the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute (RMLEI) at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado, a center of excellence that has raised the level of eye care in the Rocky Mountain region. The Eye Institute was the result of leadership and hard work by numerous Wyoming and Colorado Lions, coupled with substantial financial contributions to the Eye Institute Foundation from Lions and Lions Clubs in both states, the Lions Club International Foundation, the Kenneth Kendal King Foundation, and other donors

Today the dream continues as the Eye Institute Foundation provides additional grants to help the Institute further its sight-saving work and provides direct support for low-income individuals who need eye care. The Foundation has no independent sources of funding; it is dependent on contributions from Lions Clubs, individual Lions, and other supporters. Using these donations plus earnings from investments and matching funds from the Lions Clubs International Foundation, RMLEIF has contributed more than $7 million to advance eye care, education, and research at the Eye Institute. 

Map showing location of the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute. 

Facilitating access to specialized eye and vision care for patients in financial need in Wyoming and Colorado 

Specialized eye and vision care is often unavailable in smaller towns and rural areas. Someone with a specialized eye or vision problem may need to travel several times to a major eye center like the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute for diagnosis and treatment, incurring significant travel, lodging, and meal costs in the process. 

The Eye Institute Foundation's Patient Assistance Program helps pay these costs for needy Wyoming and Colorado patients and a family member while the patient undergoes evaluation and/or treatment at the Eye Institute or elsewhere because necessary vision care is unavailable where the patient lives.  

If you are in financial need and have an eye or vision problem that cannot be adequately evaluated or treated in your home area or you are a member of a Lions Club that wants to help someone with these needs, contact us about this program.  

Our Patient Assistance Program works with local Lions Clubs in Colorado and Wyoming to provide this assistance. You don't need to be a Lion to receive this help. For more information, send an email to  

The Foundation helps pay for low vision Exams

The Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute Foundation pays for refraction and magnification evaluations at the Institute for individuals with low vision who are unable to pay for the evaluations themselves. The refraction and magnification portion a low vision exam is not typically covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance. 

As reported in the online article Removing Barriers from Low Vision Rehabilitation, since 2007 the Foundation has paid for more than 300 of these exams, which are performed by the staff of UCHealth's Low Vision Program. The exams help patients make the most of their visual capabilities

CU Eye Center Patient wearing glasses with an attached bi-optic.

The online article Driving Dreams Come True at Age 52 tells one of the Low Vision Program's success stories. The assistive device worn by the patient in this photo is a "bi‑optic," a miniature telescope/magnifier mounted above the patient's glasses. The device can focus near and far by twisting the black disk in the center. The majority of the time the patient looks through her glasses but when she needs to see detail, such as the price on an item to be purchased, she briefly tilts her head down to see a magnified image through the bi-optic. In a similar manner the patient can see detail on distant objects. 

RMLEIF pays for refraction and magnification evaluations at the Institute for patients who can't pay themselves. The "refraction" part of the evaluation determines the best glasses for the patient. The "magnification" helps determine the best magnifying and/or telescoping device, based on the patient's needs and visual capabilities.  For more information on bi‑optics, see this video or these videos

The Foundation thanks the Sterling Lions Club for contibuting $5000 

In March 2024, Eye Institute Foundation Treasurer Steve Allen and Assistant Treasurer Holly Rutherford-Allen, who is also a Past Colorado Lions Council Chair, presented a Certificate of Appreciation to President Gary Northup of the Sterling Lions Club in recognition of contributions totaling $5,000 that the Club has given to the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute Foundation over the past five years. 

The Foundation Honors Past International Director John Harper

PID Ken Schwols presents Melvin Jones pin to RMLEIF president PID John Harper.

In July 2023, the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute Foundation honored Past Lions International Director John Harper of Wyoming for his more than 30 years of service to the Foundation. John is currently President of the Foundation. In past years he has served as Trustee and Vice President. Past International Director Ken Schwols of Colorado, a RMLEIF Trustee, pinned on John's progressive Melvin Jones award in front of the Lions painting in the lobby of the Eye Institute building. 

The Foundation assists at a major low-vision conference 

In July 2023, twenty-five Lion volunteers working with the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute Foundation assisted at an international conference on low-vision and blindness that was held in Denver. Click here for more. 

More about the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute

The UCHealth Eye Center, headquartered in the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, CO, is one of the largest eye centers in the world and the only academic eye institute within a 500-mile radius. The Eye Institute annually hosts over 150,000 patient visits.

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