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TORI TRY…promote vision health in children

Eye health has always been important to me, especially as a reader and writer.

When I first heard that the Midland Lions Club was offering KidSight vision screening for elementary school students, my first thought was the old-fashioned method I went through in the 1990s. One by one we would be called to sit at a table, put our face level against a vision screening machine and watch for images to come into focus.

Being naturally anxious about taking any kind of test, I was afraid of failing even though I couldn’t prepare in any way.

I finally got my first glasses in the second grade. In addition to being able to read the board better, my initial bespectacled appearance earned me five minutes of instant fame from my classmates.

KidSight takes a different approach.

An entire classroom of preschoolers stood along one side of the room, waiting their turn. One by one they were invited to sit opposite them on a rolling desk chair with Lions club member Roger Frazer. Soon it was time for me to try and do a show.

On one hand, the children were dazzled by the pulsing colorful light display and bird sounds emanating from the device. On the opposite side of the camera, I looked at a black-and-white, almost infrared, image of their faces. The goal was to focus the screen on their eyes for a second or two until the camera got a clear reading.

The challenge was to achieve the right distance for the camera to scan the child’s eyes. A few centimeters can be the difference between being too close or too far away. I quickly understood why I got the wheelchair.

The children sat as quietly as possible and waited for the test to be completed. Sometimes they only had to sit in the chair for a few seconds. The first – and longest – test I took took me a few tries, causing the wait time to extend to several minutes.

Every test I took came back with good results. If the camera detects any problems – including astigmatism and lazy eye – with a student’s vision, the Midland Lions Club will print a copy of the report for their parents or guardians with a request to see an optometrist. If the family cannot afford a doctor’s visit or even a set of glasses, the club is prepared to provide financial support.

At the end of each visit, each child was invited to choose a picture book to take home, a reward for their patience. The books are purchased through the club’s charity fund.

The Midland Lions Club is always looking for more venues to host vision shows. If you are interested in scheduling a vision screening appointment, contact Lynda Stark at lyndastark46@yahoo.com or 989-385-0220.

The next public viewing presented by the Midland and Coleman Lions Clubs is Dec. 13-14 at the Sanford Centennial Museum, 2222 Smith St. in Sanford.

Shop talk with a real team of visors

The Midland Lions Club has offered free vision tests through KidSight for the past 10 years. Its main focus is to test children from 6 months to 5 years old. In addition to preschools, the club provides public vision tests at Home Depot, the Midland County Fair and River Days.

Lynda Stark is the KidSight Coordinator for the Midland Lions Club. She was joined by fellow Lions Roger Frazer, Dick Ivan and Bob Stoney.

How many children does the Midland Lions Club display on average per year?

Fraser: When we did it before COVID, we (tested) 250-300 kids a year.

Strong: We can do more than that this year because we have some additional places to go.

How often do you do shows?

Strong: Our focus is mainly in the fall when children are back at school. We do have other shows at various other events… At the Midland fair we tried (test) all week and once we only had two kids on a whole day so we decided not to do it again do not You live and learn. (At Rivierdae) we do it in the morning before the chicken dinner.

Fraser: River Days wasn’t bad because they have a lot of kids there.

What do you enjoy most about providing KidSight shows?

Strong: There are two things I enjoy the most. I think that most of the times our camera finds things…that no one will know except for this show. A 2 year old will have no way of telling you that something is not quite right because it is right for them. We find things that the parents often have no idea about. I think this is a valuable tool for parents. Typically, at each vision screening we have about 10% of the children who have something show up. I think it’s a valuable thing for the community.

The other thing I like about it is at public events when people will come up to us and tell us about something the Lions Club has done for them or for a family member. It makes you feel good, that the work you do helps people and that they appreciate it.

Fraser: This is one of the real service programs we do. We give money to various organizations, but it is a personal service. We see the children, we know we are helping the children. This is the best service our Lions Club provides.

Strong: I agree. This goes right back to the reason why there are Lions. Helen Keller said she wanted Lions to be “knights for the blind”.

Why is it so important to screen children so early?

Strong: I think it’s because there’s really no other way to find out if they have a vision-related problem. I don’t know any other way. I’m not an optician, maybe there are other ways – but this is a simple way to find out very quickly if they have a problem.

John: The other thing is that if you catch them and the parents follow up, you can correct the problem before the child starts reading. When he passes first grade, he will start reading; the better their eyes are, the better they will be in the long run.

Is there a job or activity you haven’t tried or are curious about? Do you have a job that people know little about and want to share your experience with readers? If so, contact Victoria (Tori) Ritter at vritter@mdn.net.

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