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 ••