The process of corneal transplantation would not be possible without the selfless act of donation, and through donation, a life becomes a legacy.

The staff of the Iowa Lions Eye Bank passionately serves to facilitate donation and to recognize our beloved donors and their families. It is our hope that in sharing the following personal stories and sentiments, we will provide comfort, inspiration and encouragement to the families and friends of our generous cornea and eye donors.

Zade Groenendyk  (Jun 28, 2002 - Jul 26, 2017)

On July 26, 2017, Michael Groenendyk and Teri Morgan were faced with an unimaginable tragedy when their 15-year-old son Zade died tragically in an ATV accident at his home near Bussey, Iowa. Zade left behind his mother, father, step-father, a full sister, and four step-sisters. However, to Zade all of his siblings were just his sisters, and his step-father was dad. His mom shared that the word step-family was just not part of Zade’s vocabulary, and that family was everything to him.

Zade was also very passionate about school, sports, and helping others. He attended Twin Cedars School where he enjoyed playing baseball and football. Teri said that although he wasn’t a natural athlete, he always gave everything he had. Zade was an excellent student, and was part of the Talented and Gifted program as well as on the Honor Roll.

Just three weeks before the accident, Teri’s husband Tom took Zade to get his driver’s permit. As part of his caring and compassionate personality, Zade proudly decided on his own to become an eye, organ, and tissue donor. No one could have expected that he would be a donor so soon after joining the registry.

One of Zade’s corneas was gifted to a 57-year-old woman with Down syndrome named Kelly. Three weeks after her surgery, Kelly’s family sent a thank you card to Zade’s family expressing their gratitude for his selfless gift of sight to their sister. They shared that Kelly was more talkative than ever on her way home from her surgery, and was so excited to be able to see things out of the car window so clearly.

Zade’s family was thrilled to receive a card from the recipient, and promptly wrote them back. Teri said that Zade would have been so happy to know that he improved the life of someone else, and that it also helped them through the grieving process to know that Zade still lives on and continues to improve the lives of others.

Each of our donor families has a unique and valuable story to share about their loved one. Submit your donor story here.


Honoring the Gift

The staff at Iowa Lions Eye Bank embraces a sincere desire to exemplify and honor the final and altruistic gift from one life to another.

In the months following the death of a loved one, donor families receive a bereavement packet from ILEB detailing a variety of memorial opportunities. Donor families are also invited to attend the Celebration of Hope & Renewal, an event honoring organ, eye, and tissue donors and recipients and those who support the work of donation, which is held within the Iowa Lions Donor Memorial & Healing Garden.

Learn more about donor memorial opportunities


Corresponding with cornea transplant recipients

Choosing to write to your loved one's transplant recipient(s) is a very personal decision. There are no strict rules, no time frames and no expectations for corresponding. For some donor families, writing a letter to recipients about their loved one’s life and family, or sending a card, can help them in their grieving process. Other donor families prefer privacy. It may be too difficult to express or share the personal attributes of a loved one now gone from this life, even though they are content with the decision to donate.

The Iowa Lions Eye Bank maintains a confidential listing of eye donors and their cornea transplant recipients. Transplant recipients are encouraged to express their gratitude to the family of their donor for the gift of sight received. We are honored to facilitate the written communication between donor families and cornea recipients. Our correspondence policy maintains respect and confidentiality for both parties throughout the process. All initial letters and/or cards are mailed to the eye bank prior to forwarding to the recipient or donor’s family, keeping the exchange anonymous for at least one year.

Should you or another family member desire to correspond with the cornea recipient(s), the following information and guidelines may be helpful in writing your letter:

  • Please address your correspondence to "Transplant Recipient"
  • Provide general information such as your loved one’s first name only, their occupation and/or hobbies and interests, family situation such as marital status, children and grandchildren, brothers and sisters, parents
  • Before stating religious comments, please consider that the beliefs of the recipient are unknown
  • Use simple and sincere language
  • Perhaps include whether the decision to donate was your loved one’s personal choice, designated or discussed prior to death, or a family decision made for them at the time of their death
  • In closing, sign your first name only and do not reveal your address, phone number, email or other contact information
  • On a separate piece of paper, include your full name, donor’s full name and the date of their donation so that we can correctly determine the recipient(s) of the gift - this information will not be included with your correspondence to the recipient(s)
  • You may be contacted by the Family Services Coordinator of the Iowa Lions Eye Bank for permission to share an excerpt or quote from your letter, along with a photograph of your loved one, via our "Every Life Has a Story" opportunity.
  • Mail your correspondence and donor’s information to:

    Iowa Lions Eye Bank
    Family Services Coordinator
    BioVentures Center
    2500 Crosspark Road, W300
    Coralville, IA 52241

You may or may not receive a response from the recipient(s). The Iowa Lions Eye Bank receives cards and letters from numerous appreciative recipients, expressing their gratefulness for receiving the precious gift of sight through a cornea transplant - often within days or weeks of their transplant. Other recipients are overwhelmed with emotion and may find it difficult to express their written thanks for such an incredible gift, given at the time of another family’s loss. The decision to write remains a personal decision for all recipients and donor families.