Lions club fulfilling its mission to prevent blindness
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
It wasn’t too many years ago that school vision screening meant looking at letters that resembled M, W, E and something that looked roughly like the number 3.
Those days are gone, thanks in part to the Rhinelander Lions Club, which has been partnering with the School District of Rhinelander for more than 15 years to screen hundreds of students annually. Use of shapes in the screening process has been replaced by handheld vision screeners that quickly and easily detect vision issues in children.
“Some of these kids can’t see the blackboard but they don’t know they can’t see it because that’s all they know,” said Rhinelander Lions Club member Tim Gengler. “We’d find that they need a referral to get corrective vision eyeglasses and then they can see.”
The Lions club owns one of the $7,000 screeners, as does the school district. Gengler and Rhinelander school district nurse Kerri Schmidt spent time Wednesday and Thursday at Crescent Elementary School screening 4-K students. Schmidt said years ago vision screening would have required several Lions and more volunteers assisting in the process.
“It’s a lot easier to use a scanner because sometimes (young children) wouldn’t know the alphabet, or don’t want to speak or can’t, or are afraid or shy, so this is fantastic,” Schmidt said.
Preventing blindness is an important cause for Lions Clubs throughout the state, with 120 clubs screening 70,863 Wisconsin children in the past year. Gengler said sometimes it’s important to get a child referred to an eye doctor, when necessary, before age five to ensure successful treatment.
“There are kids that we catch, and they get corrective eye care and they can see perfectly with glasses on,” he said. “Kids can now see because of the screening we’ve done.”
In addition to Rhinelander, Lions Clubs in the local district provide vision screening to students in Phillips, Elcho, Merrill and Tomahawk. Gengler said the quicker process now in place will allow the groups to continue expanding services.