photo/Jasper Lions Club
Jasper Lions Club volunteer Joy Huddleston performs a vision screening on a child at Country Kids Daycare in Jasper on Monday, Nov. 16. The local group can now provide the voluntary vision screening at no cost for kids age six months to six years.
Speaking at the Lions Club International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio in 1925, the iconic Helen Keller challenged the civic group to be “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”
Since that time, Lions Club International has been dedicated to eradicating blindness with their glasses programs, indigent access to eye surgery, and most recently free vision screenings for children that some local clubs - like the Jasper Lions - have implemented.
“This is the latest and greatest technology,” said Japer Lion Mark Miller, chair of the KidSight Vision Program committee. “And because of the Lions’ dedication to blindness prevention, this new program is a natural extension of our longtime emphasis. It’s core to what Lions do.”
Many of the vision problems being tested for develop within the first three years of life, Miller said, and the earlier they are detected the quicker they can be treated to avoid deterioration of eyesight.
The program allows Lions volunteers to screen children for nine eye conditions by simply taking a photo of the child’s eyes with a special camera, and then sending the image to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
“Ophthalmologists will review the image and send a report back – and the turnaround has been very fast,” Miller said. “We are telling our parents two weeks, but have been getting them back much quicker.”
Conditions tested for include: amblyopia (lazy eye); anisometropia; astigmatism; cataracts; coloboma; farsightedness; nearsightedness; ptosis and strabismus.
The Jasper Lions have purchased a five-year service contract, which will allow them to perform an unlimited number of the voluntary vision screenings during that time period. So far, the civic group has visited two area preschools, Country Kids Daycare and the children’s program at Jasper First Baptist, testing a total of about 50 children last month.
“And we found significant eye problems at both schools,” Miller said. “These tests aren’t like the eye charts; they are sophisticated, but the machines are simple enough to use that your regular Lion can perform the screenings.”
Miller said the first two local preschool screenings were a way for volunteers to get comfortable with the system, and that after the first of the year there are plans to contact all other preschools in the county. The Jasper Lions would also like to work with county schools, but no formal discussions have happened at this point.
After – and only after - all Pickens preschools have been tested, Miller said there are plans to work with the Ball Ground and Cherokee Lions Clubs, which have not yet implemented a kids’ vision screening program at this time.
More information about the program can be found at www.jasperlions.club where you will also find an online vision screening application.