Donate Life Month 2024 Looks to the Stars

In April we celebrate eye, organ, and tissue donors as superstars whose generosity allows others to experience the joys of stargazing.

By Kerry Halladay - April 1, 2024

There’s a lot to see in the sky this April. In the short time span of only thirty days, there will be both a solar eclipse AND a meteor shower, making it a pretty special time for two such rare occurrences. But there’s something else that makes April special, too: It’s National Donate Life Month!

National Donate Life Month (NDLM) happens every April. It focuses national attention on the need for and importance of eye, organ, and tissue donation. NDLM is about the importance of registering your decision to be an eye, organ, and tissue donor, honoring deceased and living donors, and celebrating the lives they saved and helped.

The NDLM theme this year is “Donors are Superstars!” According to Donate Life America, the national brand for the cause of donation, the theme was inspired by the night sky and its billions of stars.

From Donate Life America: “Stars remind us that even in the darkest night, there is light. Your decision to be an organ, eye and tissue donor gives hope and light to the 100,000 people on the national transplant waiting list who are waiting for a second chance at life. That’s why donors are superstars.”

Sharing the Circle of Light

There’s no better way of looking at it: Without donors, the world would be a much darker place.

For example, in 2023, eye tissue donors in Colorado and Wyoming donated 2,336 eye tissues that were used for transplant. Most of these transplants were corneal transplants.

The cornea is the clear outer part of the eye that controls most of the eye’s light-focusing ability. People who have had corneal damage or live with one of several degenerative corneal conditions have diminished vision to outright blindness. These conditions can be cured with a corneal transplant. This means most of those transplants in 2023 restored or improved the sight of recipients.

There are people who were once blind who can now see the stars today because of the generosity of those donors.

And there is a whole lot to see in the sky this April!

April 8: Total Solar Eclipse

Midday on Monday, April 8, a total solar eclipse will cross North America. A total solar eclipse means the moon is between the earth and the sun. From our perspective on earth, the moon will block out the sun along the eclipse’s path. Those outside of the path will see a partial eclipse.

The path of the full eclipse will run in a northeastern diagonal from the Pacific coast of Mazatlán, Mexico beginning around 11a.m. local time, up through Texas to the tip of Maine, and on into New Brunswick, Canada by around 5 p.m. local time. For more detailed information on the eclipse’s path, check out NASA’s maps here.

Whether you’re in the eclipse’s direct path or not, you need to protect your eyes if you plan to observe the eclipse. It is not safe to look directly at the sun, even during an eclipse. Doing so could cause permanent eye and vision damage.

To safely enjoy the eclipse, use safe solar viewers like official eclipse glasses, handheld eclipse viewers, or proper solar filters. The American Astronomical Society has a curated list of suppliers here.

If you can’t find eclipse glasses, you can make a box pinhole projector as an indirect way to safely view the eclipse. Check out this easy walkthrough by NASA on how to make one.

April 13: RMLEB at Observatory Park Open House

Members of the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank (RMLEB) community and professional relations team will be at the Open House at Chamberlin Observatory in Denver, CO, weather permitting.

This monthly event is hosted by the Denver Astronomical Society and opens the telescope up to the public for star gazing. Members of the Denver Astronomical Society will be on hand to teach people to use their own telescopes, show visitors the historic telescope in the observatory, and give tours of the facility.

RMLEB will be there to talk to the public about eye tissue donation, corneal transplants, and our mission and projects.

The event is free to the public, but the Denver Astronomical Society welcomes cash donations. The event is outdoors in mid-April, meaning the weather is likely to be cold and unpredictable. Weather conditions may result in the event being cancelled or shortened with little to no notice.

April 21-23: Lyrid meteor shower

This annual meteor shower usually happens in the latter half of April, but it peaks around April 21-23. Different sources say the best viewing in the Northern Hemisphere will be the night between April 21 and 22, while other sources say the night between April 22 and 23.

According to the Planetary Society, the best way to view the meteor shower is to find a dark sky site and look towards the constellation Lyra (up and to the north) during the period between midnight and dawn. There will be a near-full moon out on the nights of the meteor shower’s peak, which will make viewing difficult. The group recommends against looking at the moon while trying to see the meteors since the light of the moon will disrupt your night vision.

Find more information on the Lyrid meteor shower and how to see it here.

We here at RMLEB will be looking to the stars this April — both in the sky and among us as donors. We hope you will join us!

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