WATERLOO – John Blitsch understands the benefits of an early eye exam. As a youth, early detection of an eye tumor may have saved his life.
Now the Cedar Valley Lions Club member gives back by helping facilitate the Iowa Lions Kidsight Program, a joint project of the Lions Clubs of Iowa and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Department of Ophthalmology.
The program is dedicated to the early detection and treatment of vision impairments in Iowa’s young children through eye screening and public education.
“The Kidsight Program is geared to detecting vision problems before a child enters kindergarten and before parents may even realize that their child may have a vision problem,” Blitsch said. “Uncorrected vision problems can be a huge disadvantage for a child when entering elementary school.”
Lions clubs in many Iowa communities are presently gearing up for Kidsight screening events this fall in their areas across the state.
Locally, the Cedar Valley Evening Lions, the Cedar Falls Noon Lions, and the Hudson Lions clubs have joined efforts to screen young children in preschools throughout the Cedar Valley and nearby towns. These Lions clubs work with AEA 267 personnel at screening events.
The instant eye screening process is done by using a black and white Polaroid camera designed for this purpose.
Due to the discontinuation of Polaroid cameras and the difficulty in getting them repaired, an initiative to purchase new cameras is in place.
“In order for this preschool eye screening project to continue, we need to switch to digital photography,” said Paul Smith, active Lions Club member.
The group recently received a $10,000 grant from the McElroy Trust to cover one new camera.
“Our goal is to raise $40,000, and we are about halfway there. We should have our new camera by Jan. 1 and hope that our old ones hold up until then,” Smith said.
The Lions Club members are trained to use the camera equipment properly, take the pictures and complete the required forms. Lions Club members do not diagnose eye problems.
The screening process can detect conditions like misaligned eyes, astigmatism, nearsightedness and farsightedness.
“Kidsight is a valuable community project for prevention,” said Barry Haskins, Cedar Valley Lions Club member. “It’s nice to do something preventative in nature for children. It pays big benefits in the long run.”
“I believe that the Kidsight Program is one of the more valuable public service projects that I’ve ever been aware of,” said Dick Brammer, Cedar Falls Lions Noon Club.
“The Kidsight Program is the most successful, most rewarding and most effective program that the Lions Club has ever had,” said Gary Chambers, a member of the Cedar Falls Lions Noon Club. “When you can catch 60 to 70 children that have eye problems parents don’t know about, that’s rewarding.”
“If you can get eyeglasses on a child that needs them, it opens up a whole new world for them,” said Earl Strong, a longtime Lions Club member.