Free vision screenings for kids

Sponsored by the local Lions Clubs

Early detection of vision problems and eye diseases in young children is the key in helping prevent devastating, and sometimes permanent, vision loss. That’s why local groups within the Iowa Lions Foundation are on a mission to help — one child at a time. On Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., youngsters age six months to age six (or up to age 10 with a parent or guardian present), are eligible to have a free vision screening performed by a volunteer with the Lions or Lioness Clubs, at the Marshalltown Public Library.

“We use a special camera that takes a vertical and horizontal photo of both eyes, at the same time, and then the photos get sent to the University of Iowa where they are thoroughly examined, looking for any problems with the eyes,” said Lioness Club Treasurer Bob Maile.

About 2-3 weeks later, the results come in, with copies given to the child’s parents and left with the facilitator, in this case, the library’s Youth Services Librarian, Joa LaVille.

“We’ve held the screenings at the library 1-2 times a year for a few years, in partnership with the Lions,” LaVille said. “They also go to pretty much every preschool [in Marshall County] — they are very dedicated.”

Children must go to the screening accompanied by a parent or guardian, or come in with a signed release form. Forms are available at the youth desk.

“Kids only need the form filled out ahead of time, if it is not the parent or guardian who will be bringing them, otherwise parents and guardians can just fill them out when they bring the child,” LaVille explained.

“It’s a very quick process. It only takes a few minutes per child,” Maile said. “We go to every preschool and kindergarten in the county, and we’ll even go to people’s homes. Our club absorbs the cost of this test, through our fundraisers.”

When problems are detected, recommendations are given.

“The University of Iowa does follow-up with these kids,” Maile said.

Maile said the area Lions Clubs have given free eye exams to around 15,000 children since 1998.

“We have around 10 members throughout the clubs that are trained to use the [photographing] equipment,” Maile explained.

Why is early detection of eye problems so crucial?

“It is easier to correct vision problems in children under 10 than over. Around 11-12 percent of kids in Marshalltown have vision problems, which is higher than the state average of five percent,” he said. “We tested a child a few years ago, and had we not detected the problem, that child would have been blind in six months.”

To learn more about the free eye exam program, contact Maile and his wife Diane at: 641-752-1530.


Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com