Schroon Lion Dick Newell scans a young man’s eyes as part of the Lions SEE program. The program has visited Schroon Lake and Crown Point schools.
The Town of Schroon Lions Club, which is involved in many local charitable efforts, is getting back to its roots.
The Lions, which has a long history of helping the blind, are now helping identify sight problems in elementary school children through the Lions SEE program.
The program offers free eye screenings for children. In December screenings were held for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students at Schroon Lake and Crown Point schools.
“Lions SEE stands for Screening Eyes Early and it is so important to their vision future,” said Kevin Lavarnway, Schroon Lions president. “For young children, their vision is all that they know and do not realize that everyone does not see things as they do.”
Trained Lions utilize scanners to take measurements of each child’s eyes. Those measurements can detect problems with the eyes that no one, not even the child, may be aware of, Lavarnway said.
“The screening can detect a problem early enough that it can be treated,” he said. “After a certain age, a child’s brain can learn to ignore messages from the defective eye and there is little or no effective treatment that can reverse this problem. The key is early detection and intervention.”
District 20-W, which includes the Schroon Lions and more than 30 other clubs in northern New York State, purchased four $5,000 scanners last year for local clubs to utilize. Training has also been provided to local Lions.
“Operating the scanner is very simple although it does take some practice to get consistently reliable results,” Lavarnway said.
Flashing lights on the device hold the child’s attention and various beeps and tones tell the operator how the scanning is progressing. A reliability number from 1 through 9 comes up on the screen to let the Lion know if the several measurements taken are close to one another.
“We need a minimum reliability of 7 before we submit the results,” Lavarnway said. “We do not know the significance of the other measurements taken and we do not interpret them. The data is sent to the Ira G. Ross Eye Institute in Buffalo, where it is analyzed by professionals. They, in turn, send those results directly back to the parents and/or the school for their records. If a problem is detected, recommendations for the next steps are given to the parents.”
About 3 to 5 percent of students screened are identified with a problem, Lavarnway said.
The Schroon Lions are working with local school officials to conduct the screenings.
“These were our first sessions and we coordinated them through the superintendents and the school nurses who provided the necessary contact with the parents,” Lavarnway said of the Schroon Lake and Crown Point screenings. “Everything went very smoothly and we thank all the folks involved for their help.”
Lions Dennis D’Amico and Cathy Moses are co-chairs of the Lions SEE program in Schroon Lake.
“Our Lions Club has many ways that we support individuals and groups in our area,” D’Amico said. “I can’t think of any, however, that are more in line with what Lions do than to screen a child’s eyes to prevent a lifetime of vision problems.”
The Schroon Lions will reach out to other schools and day care centers in the area to schedule more screenings in the near future.
In 1925 Helen Keller addressed the Lions Clubs International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, and challenged Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” Since then, Lions have worked to aid the blind and visually impaired.
“It goes back to the original emphasis and focus of the Lions’ mission to combat blindness; to help these young students who have their entire lives ahead of them makes it even more special,” Moses said of the SEE program.
Information on the Lions SEE program is available online at www.LionsSEE.org.
“I would like to thank everyone who supports the efforts of the Lions,” Lavarnway said. “We rely on the generosity of the people we serve to maintain our programs and to add new ones such as the Lions SEE program.“