MONMOUTH -- Rod Bach said he knew joining the Lions Club nine years ago would entail volunteer time.
But the request he received early one morning back in 2004 was beyond the norm.
Bach said a fellow Lions Club member had rousted him from his sleep at 2 a.m. to ask if he would accompany him on a delivery trip to Portland.
The cargo was the eyes of somebody recently deceased.
"I was thinking, `What, are you nuts?'" Bach recalled. "But I told him I would be glad to do it."
Bach said he had goose bumps as they passed Woodburn along Interstate 5 with the 12-inch-by-12-inch box, though it wasn't out of morbid curiosity.
"It was knowing that we were helping to save somebody's eyesight," Bach said.
The Lions Club recently named Bach Oregon's Lion of the Year at the organization's annual convention in Pendleton.
Bach, 63, is past Central Lions Club president, and a regional president. He currently serves as the public relations chairman at the organization's state level and is vice chairman of Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation.
But perhaps the most meaningful involvement with the group is being a part of a Lions Club network of couriers who transport harvested eyes and eye tissue to the Lions Eye Bank in Portland.
The facility houses ocular tissue for transplants, research and medical education in northwestern Oregon. Donations there usually come from families of the deceased.
Bach has been a courier for the past six years, making deliveries perhaps once every two months. Tissue is often put into solution and processed at hospitals in Corvallis or Eugene. Lions Club members from those cities drive the eyes to Bach, who continues the package's journey to Portland.
"The first time I did it, I thought it was really strange," Bach said, noting people actually ask him "if I've ever looked in the box." He doesn't.
Bach's wife, Debbie, sometimes accompanies him on those trips. While the eyes have to be at the ending point within a few hours, "it's not like we're racing up the freeway," Bach said.
Bach said that there are a lot of parts and people involved in the courier system, and that he enjoys being a part of it.
"It's terrible that somebody died," he said. "But at the same time, doing this is helping to save somebody's vision."
For more information: http://eyebank.orlions.org/