Vinton Host Lions Club preschool eye screenings underway

VINTON–The Vinton Host Lions Club is in the midst of its annual eye screenings at preschools throughout the valley. On March 9, they screened 37 children ages 3-5 enrolled in the Thrasher Memorial UMC Preschool. Before they are finished, the Vinton Host Lions will have screened about 475 youngsters.  The screenings are a community service, free of charge.

Lion Larry Kilgore conducts a vision screening with a student at the Thrasher Memorial Preschool using a Spot Vision Screener camera.
Lion Larry Kilgore conducts a vision screening with a student at the Thrasher Memorial Preschool using a Spot Vision Screener camera.

They will also screen the preschools at Bonsack Baptist, Lynn Haven Baptist, W. E. Cundiff Elementary, Good Shepherd, Herman L. Horn Elementary, Mineral Springs, Parkway Wesleyan, Evangel Foursquare, and the Children’s Castle.

This year they are using an updated camera from Welch Allyn–the Spot Vision screener—with even more advanced software than the cameras used in years past.

According to Welch Allyn, “The Spot Vision Screener is a handheld, portable device designed to help users quickly and easily detect vision issues on patients from 6 months of age through adult. Spot screens both eyes at once from a nonthreatening 3-foot distance. The touch-screen display allows for one-touch activation, and simple management of patient data entry.”

The camera keeps a young child's attention with sounds and flashing lights just long enough for the camera to snap a photo. Any problems which are detected appear on the screen and alert those screening to print out a document for the parents referring them to a professional.
The camera keeps a young child’s attention with sounds and flashing lights just long enough for the camera to snap a photo. Any problems which are detected appear on the screen and alert those screening to print out a document for the parents referring them to a professional.

The Lions enter only minimal data to protect the identity of children. All data is erased at the end of the screening session. The camera attracts the attention of preschoolers with flashing lights and the sound of chirping birds long enough for their vision to be analyzed. The Lions use a wireless printer to export data of only those students who may have a vision problem. The information is passed along to parents for them to make an appointment for professional evaluation.

Host Lions Club president Denny Dickens heads up the program each year, assisted by other members of the club and coordinates the screening program with area preschools. He is accompanied to each school by another Lions Club volunteer. Larry Kilgore assisted on the March 9 visit.

 Lions Larry Kilgore (on left) and Denny Dickens screened 37 students at Thrasher Preschool on March 9 and will have screened about 475 children when the process is complete.
Lions Larry Kilgore (on left) and Denny Dickens screened 37 students at Thrasher Preschool on March 9 and will have screened about 475 children when the process is complete.

At Thrasher, the men checked in with Director Amy Hebert and then brought small groups of children into a quiet room for what was a quick screening procedure. Each child sat about three feet away from the hand held camera. Lights and sounds focused their attention and the camera did its work. The screen indicated if there seemed to be a potential vision problem. If so the Lions printed out an information sheet that showed the data captured by the camera and passed the page along to Herbert who passed it along to the family.

Dickens and Kilgore said that the first camera used by the local Lions came from a donation (several thousand dollars) from the estate of a gentleman whose glasses had been provided through another Lions Club program.

They also said that at one White Cane event at the local Kroger stores, a donor contributed $20 because the Lions eye screenings had detected a vision problem in their child the year before.

The Lions Club District 24-E owns several of the cameras, which they share with member clubs to conduct the screenings.

When preschool screenings began several years ago, the technology consisted of a Polaroid camera with special film. Photos were taken and then screened individually by Vinton optometrist Dr. Neal Jessup.

The Vinton Host Lions meet on a monthly basis at Thrasher Memorial UMC, and are well-known for their community service in a wide array of causes.

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