Tonawanda News — When little kids with sight problems finally get glasses, learning becomes a lot clearer.
“It opens up a whole new world for them,” said Shawn Licht, executive director of the Niagara County Head Start program.
It’s a big job screening the nearly 500 children in the area program but the Town of Niagara Lions Club has been helping in the effort for the past 15 years, using a camera that provides images that can be assessed by an eye doctor.
Unfortunately, the camera has broken and the Lions are seeking support from the community to match a $3,500 grant from the Lions Club International Foundation, to buy a new one. The cost of the new camera is $7,000.
The camera is part of the Lion See program, an effort within the international organization devoted to decreasing childhood blindness through early detection and treatment of the most common vision disorders.
A small group of Lions volunteers have been going to area schools for 15 years, taking a photo of each child’s eyes and sending them to the Ross Eye Institute at the University at Buffalo for screening by a doctor. Parents are then notified if the child’s eyes need the care of an eye doctor.
Robert Shively, who’s been leading the effort, still remembers the call of appreciation he got from one parent, whose child was tested last year.
“We’d done a vision screening last November and in February we got a call from a parent who said, ‘Thank you so much. Our son was almost blind,’ “ Shively said.
The Lions Club volunteers say there’s a lot of satisfaction in their efforts. The screening is fast and easy. The photo session for each child takes about 30 seconds. Typically the closeup of the child’s eyes can indicate if the child is at risk for myopia (nearsightedness); hyperopia (farsightedness); or other eye problems like astigmatism, drooping eyelid or cataracts.