Five-year-old Rebecca Zeien has worn glasses for about a year now.
But her mother wouldn’t have known her little girl needed glasses if she hadn’t signed up for a free vision screening provided by the Newton Lions Club.
“I signed her up here (at KinderCare) to get her eyes checked at the last minute by the Lions Club,” Samantha Zeien said. “When the pictures came back they showed an irregularity. So I took her and had her eyes checked, and now she wears glasses. If it wouldn’t have been for them, I would have waited until she went to school before I checked her. It’s amazing. She has a stigmatism, which is what the picture picked up.”
Samantha said Rebecca has adjusted to wearing glasses. She wants to encourage all parents who have the opportunity to get a screening to take part.
“It was just I hadn’t filled out the paper and I decided, ‘Hey, why not?’ and they did her picture,” she said. “(I recommend this program) especially for kids that can’t tell you, ‘Hey, that’s blurry.’ She didn’t know any difference, because who knows how long she’s had it. But she wasn’t old enough to say, ‘Something is not quite right with my vision.’ Getting her tested here, that was great.”
The current incarnation of the Newton Lions Club has only been around since 2009. Prior to that, Newton had gone 25 years without a Lions Club.
Locally, they provide vision screenings at daycare centers and, in several grocery stores, they have wooden boxes with their insignia for people to donate glasses. Jack Ayres, a member of the Newton Lions Club, wants more people to know how important the screenings are and all of the good Lions Club does for eye care in Iowa.
“If someone can’t afford an eye test or glasses that needs it, we have a financial questionnaire and we have an agreement with Newton Eye Care and we call and give them (a person’s name) and they will do the exam free,” Ayres said. “And then we will pay up to a $140 dollars for a pair of glasses. Most Lions Clubs in the country that are local will do that. That’s one of the big reason we raise funds; that costs us.”
The Newton Lions Club does its screenings at daycare centers in Newton after Ayres makes contact with them to set up a date and to check out a screening camera from the Downtown Lions Club of Des Moines.
So far this year, they have screened 152 kids. Last year, they screened 144 kids, including Rebecca, as a part of the Iowa KidSight project. The project is a collaboration of the Lions Clubs of Iowa and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
In addition to the screenings, all of the Iowa clubs stepped up to take over the delivery of transplant corneas after budget cuts stopped the state troopers from doing it Ayres said.
“One of things that Lions Clubs have had the opportunity to do, and I just thought, ‘This is cool,’” Ayres said. “Back in 2008 the state budget was cut for the State Patrol. They used to transport [corneas] to Iowa Eye Bank in Iowa City ... People pass away and they donate their corneas. They have to be transported post haste ... Being vision people, the Lions Club of Iowa volunteered to transport.”
“So 365 days a year there’s a relay team that takes the corneas to Iowa City,” he continued. “My wife (Terri) and I have been doing it for about three years. It’s usually about one day a month; there’s a monthly schedule that comes out. That’s just one of the many things we do.”
Providing so many services can be costly. The screenings, which they conduct free, have a cost around $10 dollars per child. Ayres or his wife would take the photo and they send it to be evaluated by specialists at the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Parents are notified within two to four weeks.
Saturday, March 23. the Newton Lions Club will be holding an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast to raise money. Ayres said the menu includes sausage and eggs, thanks to donations from Newton 66 and Subway.
The cost is $5 for people 12 and older and $3 those who are younger. It will start at 7 a.m. at the Jasper County Senior Center and all proceeds will go to KidSight.
“If we do 30 kids and even one has an eye problem and the parents didn’t know about it and they are able to get help, that’s wonderful,” Ayres said.
He said anyone interested in more information about KidSight or becoming a Lions Club member can contact Ayres at (641)-792-4330 or firstname.lastname@example.org via email.