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Lions help screen young eyes

First-grader Telly “T.J.” Fowler reads an eyechart while Lincolnton Lions Club President Charles Stevens observes and records his results on Wednesday at S. Ray Lowder Elementary School in Lincolnton.
Ray Gora / Lincoln Times-News

Civic club volunteers help to check students’ vision

AMANDA SEBASTIANO
Staff Writer

Elementary school children in three Lincoln County schools may soon be seeing more clearly thanks to vision screenings provided by the Lincolnton Lions Club this week.

Battleground, G.E. Massey and S. Ray Lowder elementary schools hosted the club volunteers, as one-by-one, students had their eyes checked.

The organization wrapped up its services in the area Wednesday at S. Ray Lowder. Volunteers instructed children to read letters from 10 feet away. Holding a small paper cup over one eye and reading with the other, first-, second- and third-graders were anxiously awaiting their turn to determine the strength of their eyesight.

Seven-year-old Wesley Adams has been wearing glasses about a year, and was enjoying showing off his specs to other students and the volunteers on site.

“I like wearing ‘em,” Adams told the Times-News, “and I can see better now.”

If children proved to have difficulty seeing the sign and club members were unsure whether their eyesight was up to par, the students were then sent out to the new mobile unit for more advanced testing.

The team has been visiting local schools for about four years, club member Robert Tomlinson estimates, and this year is traveling with a new vehicle — the 21st Century Vision Van.

State Coordinator for the N.C. Lions mobile screening unit Bryan Hoover greeted each participant who made it up the ramp and into the white bus, along with the help of two club members who orchestrated the next round of testing.

The van travels around the state year-round through funding from medical programs at universities, such as UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke. Tuesday through Saturday, N.C. elementary schools are visited that request the state group’s services.

“A lot of kids we see have parents who don’t realize they have vision issues,” Hoover said. “If a student can’t see the board in class, of course learning is going to be a challenge.”

Not being able to see the lessons presented by their teacher may start to create behavioral issues as a result of boredom or feeling lost in class, Hoover thinks, which can disrupt the child’s learning ability and the rest of the students as well.

S. Ray Lowder Principal Donald Welch was grateful some of the students at his school had the opportunity to have their vision checked, as a high percentage of them are visual learners, he said, and need their eyes to be able to see, interpret and understand the material they are learning in class.

Hoping to detect problems within the early stages, Hoover recommends students having their eyes checked within their first three years of schooling to prevent worse problems from being discovered later in life.

Of the elementary schools visited earlier this week, the last stop was found to have fewer children with eyesight issues. Paperwork is given to the school nurse for those who are flagged as not having strong vision, followed by a letter home to parents with a recommendation for their child to see an optometrist. Families unable to afford eye care for their children have options available to them through the Lions Club and other outlets if necessary.

A request was put in for another elementary school stop during the tour, but the group may not be able to make its way back to the county until next year.

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