Niagara Gazette

Features

December 2, 2013

HELPING KIDS SEE: Town of Niagara Lion's need help to purchase new eye exam camera

Niagara Gazette — 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.

“It’s quick and non-invasive. And it’s free,” said Wendy Peters, who helps with the exams along with her husband Paul Peters, the club president. “I just love the kids, and they all deserve access to something like this.”  

The new camera, which will be digitized, will be much more efficient, and only requires one photo instead of two. It also prints out the results of the exam immediately.

But the best part is that children who have problems with their sight can benefit by the early detection.

“It’s comfortable for the kids, they can do it in school, they can come with their friends so it’s not so scary for them,” said Licht. “It’s a wonderful program.”

Those interested in the sight and hearing assistance provided by the Lions Clubs throughout the region can visit www.lionsclubs.org. Those seeking more information about fundraising for the Lions Club eye exam program can call Shively at 297-2596.

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