For many years the Vinton Host Lions Club has been conducting annual eye screenings in local private preschools in Vinton and the surrounding area.
Last year they expanded the program to the local public elementary schools at Bonsack, Herman L. Horn, and W.E. Cundiff. The program continues to grow this year with the addition of screenings at William Byrd Middle School and William Byrd High School.
The Lions screen public school students in grade levels mandated by state law: kindergarten, third, seventh, and tenth, as well as any new students in any grade level.
Public school screenings by local Lions Clubs organizations began as a pilot program in the county and went so well that they were adopted for all Roanoke County schools.
This fall the Host Lions screened well over 1,000 public school students. They began at Wasena Elementary, followed by Stonewall Jackson Middle, RAMAS Elementary, Fishburn Elementary, and Morningside Elementary in Roanoke City.
At Bonsack Elementary in Roanoke County, 121 students were screened with17 referred on for further evaluation; 170 students were screened at Herman L. Horn with 19 referrals; 204 screenings took place at W.E. Cundiff with 15 referrals. About 300 seventh graders and 300 sophomores were screened at the middle and high schools.
WBHS nurse Tiffany McCormack says that the screening provided by the Host Lions Club with their Pediavision cameras makes the process must quicker and less complicated, and has vastly improved the accuracy of the screening process. The cameras are virtually foolproof and even the most distractible student is engaged for the seconds that it takes to complete the screening.
Lion Denny Dickens leads the project each year with another Lion going along to assist. Jim Johnson accompanied him to WBHS on October 16. Sara Cavicchio, the nurse at W.E. Cundiff, also assisted at the high school along with several PTA volunteers.
The Lions across the state use Welch Allyn vision screeners described by the company as “handheld, portable devices designed to help users quickly and easily detect vision issues on patients from 6 months of age through adult. The camera screens both eyes at once from a non-threatening three-foot distance.”
An infrared light is projected through the pupils onto the retina and captures the vision data, which appears on the camera display screen. The cameras can detect near-sightedness, far-sightedness, unequal refractive power, blurred vision and eye structure problems like astigmatism, pupil size deviations, and eye misalignment.
Students who already have glasses or contact lenses can be screened with the camera as well.
The Lions enter only minimal data to protect the identity of students. All data is erased at the end of the screening session. They 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 with a doctor of their choice.
When the Lions began preschool screenings 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. Tremendous advances have occurred in the field in just a few years.
The Vinton Host Lions will perform the vision screenings in local private preschools after the first of the year. Lions Clubs across the state have purchased the vision screening cameras to conduct eye screenings as a service to their communities.
Lions are renowned worldwide for their emphasis on programs and services for the blind and visually impaired – and their aim to eliminate preventable and reversible blindness.
Their mission began in 1925 when Helen Keller addressed their convention and challenged the Lions to be “Knights of the Blind.”