Lions Kid Sight program to improve test thanks to grant - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Lions Kid Sight program to improve test thanks to grant

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

For the past decade, Lions Clubs in the Cedar Valley have been offering free vision screenings for preschool age kids.  The test can pick up problems from misaligned eyes to astigmatism and near or far sightedness.  But the technology used to do the screenings is becoming outdated.  Now, a $10,000 grant from the RJ McElroy trust is helping the Lions continue to meet their mission in helping change children's lives.

"I like to do art," said Josie Helgerson.

And the five-year-old can now see her drawings of rainbows in vibrant colors.

"With her glasses on, her vision is good now!" said her mom, Jill Helgerson.

The Helgersons didn't know Josie needed glasses until about two years ago when a vision test, provided free by local Lions Clubs, found an issue.  It was only then her parents realized that Josie's seemingly shy personality, in not always recognizing people, was really a result of being almost blind in one eye.

"What she has is a refractive disorder where one eye is strong and the other eye is weak.  So her brain just didn't use the weak eye," said Jill Helgerson.

Each year, the Lions Club snaps photos of more than a thousand kids' eyes, like Josie's.  The images are sent to the University of Iowa, where a specialist looks for seven different eye issues.  About four percent of the time, possible problems are found and kids are referred to an eye doctor.

"The goal is to catch them before they get into school, get any correction done so that whenever they get into kindergarten and on through school, why they're able to see the blackboard and not be hampered by having poor vision," said Gary Chambers with the Cedar Falls Lions Club.

But the camera the Lions use to find eye issues is getting outdated.  Only one manufacturer still makes the film for it, and replacement parts are hard to come by.  But now, thanks to grant funding, a new digital camera will be able to shoot the valuable images, giving families like the Helgersons even better sight into their children's eyes.  It's a gift they'll always be grateful for.

"Thank you!" Josie Helgerson said.

Currently, local Lions Clubs coordinate the vision test with the Area Education Agency's hearing screenings at preschools.  The Lions are hoping to purchase two more digital cameras, so the program can be expanded into more communities and schools.

The Kid Sight program is funded by the Iowa Lions Club.  Local Lions Clubs are always looking for volunteers and donations to help make the program a success.  To learn more, you can call Paul Smith at (319) 939-8388.

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