Northeast Times

Give Kids Sight Day provides eye screenings, glasses

Deal­ing with poor eye­sight can be a chal­lenge for many kids without health in­sur­ance. Not real­iz­ing they have bad vis­ion can lead to frus­tra­tion and dif­fi­culties at school.

A num­ber of com­munity part­ners are mak­ing sure all un­in­sured and un­der­insured chil­dren in the Delaware Val­ley can re­ceive free eye screen­ings and, if needed, two free pairs of eye­glasses at Give Kids Sight Day on Sat­urday, April 12, at Wills Eye Hos­pit­al.

Any and all chil­dren 18 and young­er will be ex­amined on a first-come, first-served basis from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. No in­sur­ance or ap­point­ments are ne­ces­sary.

Pub­lic Cit­izens for Chil­dren and Youth, Wills Eye Hos­pit­al, Eagles Youth Part­ner­ship, Thomas Jef­fer­son Uni­versity, Vis­ion­works and the First Hos­pit­al Found­a­tion are team­ing up for the fifth an­nu­al event.

“We know trans­port­a­tion can be a big chal­lenge for fam­il­ies com­ing to Give Kids Sight Day, so every child will re­ceive two free SEPTA tokens,” said Colleen Mc­Cauley, health dir­ect­or for PCCY.

Vis­ion dif­fi­culties are one of the most com­mon child health prob­lems in the United States and the most pre­val­ent han­di­cap­ping con­di­tion in child­hood. Vis­ion prob­lems are of­ten mis­dia­gnosed as be­ha­vi­or prob­lems or learn­ing dis­ab­il­it­ies.

“We know be­cause of budget cuts, many schools in our area have had to lay off nurses, mak­ing it harder for chil­dren to have their eyes prop­erly checked at school,” Mc­Cauley said. 

Chil­dren who have failed an eye screen­ing at school or have not had their eyes ex­amined in the last year are strongly urged to at­tend.

“Eighty per­cent of learn­ing in school is visu­al. If we can im­prove a child’s vis­ion, we can en­hance their learn­ing,” said Eagles Youth Part­ner­ship Ex­ec­ut­ive Dir­ect­or Sarah Mar­tinez-Helf­man. “Eagles Youth Part­ner­ship is proud to be a part of such an amaz­ing vo­lun­teer-run day. We’ve been provid­ing vis­ion care to chil­dren for the past 18 years through our Eagles Eye Mo­bile pro­gram, but there are so many more chil­dren who need the care. Give Kids Sight Day is for them.”

The Eagles Eye Mo­bile has made its way through the North­east, stop­ping at the fol­low­ing schools: May­fair, Aus­tin Mee­han, Han­cock, Crossan, Holme, Rhawn­hurst, Comly, Baldi, Far­rell, Sol­is-Co­hen, Woo­drow Wilson, Zie­g­ler, J.H. Brown, Dis­ston, For­rest, Eth­an Al­len, Anne Frank and FitzPatrick.

“Even if a fam­ily has in­sur­ance, some­times they can’t get all their kids screened, if there are four or five kids at one doc­tor’s ap­point­ment,” Mar­tinez-Helf­man said. “This event is a chance for them to get all their kids seen at one time.”

Stu­dents with vis­ion prob­lems of­ten get mis­dia­gnosed with learn­ing dis­ab­il­it­ies. If these kids are giv­en ac­cess to prop­er eye care, they will be able to avoid this pit­fall of the edu­ca­tion sys­tem.

“We want kids to be able to see the black­board and their books,” Mar­tinez-Helf­man said. “We want them to have good re­la­tion­ships with their fam­il­ies and friends.”

“This is the first time the event has been ex­pan­ded to cov­er the four counties bor­der­ing Phil­adelphia,” Mc­Cauley said. “No child will be turned away.”

This year, Give Kids Sight Day has set its aim on draw­ing an even lar­ger crowd than last year and, in turn, help­ing more chil­dren.

Fam­il­ies in the neigh­bor­ing Phil­adelphia sub­urbs are also en­cour­aged to bring their chil­dren to the event if they are in need of eye care.

“Give Kids Sight Day is so im­port­ant be­cause it gives par­ents an op­por­tun­ity to get their child’s vis­ion ex­amined and re­ceive a pair of glasses at no cost to them,” said Eliza­beth Wira, a re­gistered nurse at the Pennsauken School Dis­trict in New Jer­sey. “This is so im­port­ant be­cause chil­dren need to see prop­erly in or­der to learn to their full po­ten­tial.”

As a school nurse for 23 years, Wira said she has seen chil­dren struggle in school be­cause of poor eye­sight many times. She said once kids find out they need glasses, they be­gin to thrive.

Last year, in just more than nine hours, 1,392 chil­dren of all ages had their eyes checked dur­ing the free event.

Mc­Cauley said any child who is dia­gnosed with a vis­ion prob­lem that can­not be cor­rec­ted by glasses will be in­vited back to Wills to meet with a spe­cial­ist.

“There will be a cadre of folks at Give Kids Sight Day to help par­ents sign up for health in­sur­ance,” Mc­Cauley said. “We’re here to make it easi­er for par­ents to get their kids the eye care they need. It’s a swift pro­cess.”

Re­gis­tra­tion for this free event will take place at the Hamilton Build­ing at Thomas Jef­fer­son Uni­versity, loc­ated at 10th and Lo­cust streets.

Re­gis­tra­tion, screen­ing and se­lect­ing glasses can take sev­er­al hours. Fam­il­ies are en­cour­aged to plan ahead for food, trans­port­a­tion and park­ing. While wait­ing for eye care, fam­il­ies will be in­vited to par­ti­cip­ate in a health fair fea­tur­ing blood pres­sure screen­ings and as­sist­ance with ap­ply­ing for health in­sur­ance.

In­ter­pret­ers in Span­ish, Man­dar­in, Vi­et­namese and sev­er­al oth­er lan­guages will also be on hand to as­sist fam­il­ies. For more in­form­a­tion, call 215-563-5848, Ext. 21 or vis­it www.pccy.org/sight­day ••

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