Dr. Martin Luther King spoke these famous words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC in 1963. Dr. Robert W. Massof also had a dream in 2013 now known as LOVRNET. Dr. Massof, better known to the Lions of MD 22 as Dr. Bob, is the founder and director of the Lions Vision Research Foundation or LVRF.

Dr. Bob’s dream was to help the avalanche of people in MD 22 who would be experiencing low vision by providing them access to trained low vision providers. He began his pursuit of this dream by seeking support from the Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) and by convincing the Lions of MD 22 to support this project in their communities.

Dr. Massof asked LVRF to seek a grant of $800,000.00 from LCIF in 2012 to fund his LOVRNET dream and he asked the Lions of MD 22 to volunteer to make LOVRNET a reality. The LCIF Sight First Committee responded with a grant of $567,647.00 in August of 2013. A second grant of $300,000.00 was received from the Reader Digest Partners for Sight Foundation to complete this project. The LOVRNET dream was now ready to become a reality.

The first step in the LOVRNET project was to select an Executive Committee with one Lion from each of the five sub districts of MD 22. This first LOVRNET Executive Committee was made of the following Lions:

    District A – PCC Rowe Haywood
    District B – PDG Charlene Travers
    District C – PDG Ted Ladd
    District D – PDG Ken Chew
    District W – PCC Clare Newcomer

Dr. Bob Massof and Jim Deremeik were advisors and PIP Clem Kusiak was a representative of the LCIF Sight First Committee. This Executive Committee began having weekly conferences every Friday using a teleconference format.

The first action of the Executive Committee was to put together a LOVRNET Steering Committee with two Lions from each district. This Committee was made up of the following Lions:

    District A – PDG Dick Bloomquist and PCC Rowe Haywood
    District B – PCC John Lawrence and PDG Dave Studley
    District C – PID Joe Gaffigan and PDG Gary Burdette
    District D – PID Ted Reiver and PDG Charles Covington
    District W – Lion Bob Bullock and PCC Clare Newcomer

The plan was for the Steering Committee, also using a teleconference format, to meet monthly on the first Friday of the month and then both the Executive Committee and Steering Committee would meet face to face after each of the LVRF Bi-monthly meetings. Eventually, the Executive and Steering Committees combined their meetings using a teleconference format.

With the LOVRNET Executive and Steering Committees in place, the real work in putting together this model for care of low vision patients in MD 22 was initiated. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was worked out with the Blind Indus- tries and Services of Maryland (BISM) for them to have an office for LOVRNET. A LOVRNET Project Administrator, Ms. Tanesha McLeod, was hired and assigned to the LOVRNET Office at BISM, located in Baltimore, MD. Also, Emerald Educational Services was hired to create the LOVRNET network that would be the backbone of Dr. Bob Massof’s dream.

Emerald Educational Services was tasked with creating the three parts of the LOVRNET Network:

  1.  Learning Management System (LMS), where in service courses could be created for low vision eye care providers and their staffs
  2.  Content Management System (CMS), where the on line shopping cart would be created with low vision devices for doctors and patients
  3.  Patient Management System (PMS) where patient, inter- viewers, and low vision patients’ schedules would be coordinated.

The Vision Council agreed to provide 14 Vision Kits with samples of low vision devices for LOVRNET to give to low vision providers who signed up with LOVRNET. Jim Deremeik, RT, CLVT at the Wilmer Eye Clinic at John Hopkins agreed to be the point person to enlist low vision providers as the LOVRNET Project Manager.

By January, 2014, everything was in place to build the Lions Low Vision Rehabilitation Network. The Executive/Steering Committee needed now to get Lions trained and involved in Dr. Bob’s dream. Lion Task forces were created and the Lions who made up the Executive/Steering Committee were given the job to head up the five key taskforces as follows:

  1.  Ophthalmologists Outreach - PCC Bob Muchow
  2.  Telephone Interviewers – PDG Ted Ladd
  3.  Direct Services – Lion Bob Bullock
  4. Administraion  – PID Joe Gaffigan
  5. Sustainability  – PCC John Lawrence (added in 2015)

All that was needed now was to have an official Kick-Off Event for LOVRNET and this was held at BISM on June 9, 2014 with 85 Lions and guests attending including LCIF Chair PIP Wayne Madden.

The rest of the story is all the work that has been accomplished to make Dr. Bob’s dream come true. There was a second LCIF grant of $130,000.00. The Taskforces have continued to operate. Many changes of both Lions and other pieces of the project have taken place but the essential work of LOVRNET has continued.

Today, LOVRNET is up and running and trying to expand be- yond MD 22 with the Lions of MD 33 in Massachusetts creating their own LOVRNET project. Also, a new foundation, Lions Low Vision Network Foundation has been set up to accommodate the expansion process.

A dream is always a dream until every patient with vision has access to low vision specialists who understand that the standard of care for low vision patients is rehabilitation. So like Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, Dr. Bob Massof’s dream is still a work in progress. Dream on LOVRNET!

PDG A. Kendall Chew, III