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Lions help kids see the future
Lions club eye screenings
Leroy Knapp conducts an eye screening on a Cunningham Elementary School student as part of the Turlock Lions Clubs annual free vision tests. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

Within seconds, Turlock Lions Club member Leroy Knapp was able to identify possible vision problems for students at Cunningham Elementary School Wednesday morning – part of the annual free vision screenings hosted by the club at elementary sites throughout the city.

All students needed to do was look towards Knapp’s Spot Vision Screener – a handheld, portable device – as the machine screened both eyes at once to detect any possible sight issues, such as glaucoma and astigmatism.

“Those things can spot anything that’s wrong with their eyes,” said Turlock Lions Club member Conrad Renteria. “If something is wrong, we print out a referral for them that their parents can take to the doctor.”

The vision screenings come as a partnership between the Turlock Lions Club and the Turlock 12:10 Lions Club. Lions Clubs around the world have been conducting vision screenings for close to 70 years, said Renteria.

Previously, the Lions Clubs used an ‘eye mobile’ for vision screenings, but grant funding helped purchase the new Spot Vision Screeners two years ago. Each of the screeners cost about $7,000 and were purchased thanks in part to a $15,000 Lions Club International grant given to District 4-A1, which encompasses both the Turlock 12:20 Lions Club and Turlock Lions Club. Clubs throughout the District also contributed $25,000 to the cause.

“It’s very important that we do this for these kids because they’re our future,” said Renteria. “They think it’s cool – all of the lights flashing around in there, it kind of mesmerizes them.”

In total, the Lions Clubs test about 900 children total, comprised of kindergarten and special needs students at each school site. Of the 600 students tested so far, about 60 have been found to have vision problems, said Renteria.

According to the Lions Club International website, sight programs encourage members to work on “projects designed to prevent blindness, restore eyesight and improve eye health and eye care for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.” In addition to vision screenings like the one performed at Cunningham Elementary Wednesday, members around the world are actively involved in recycling eyeglasses at 18 centers worldwide, supporting Lions Eye Banks that provide eye tissue for sight-saving surgeries and providing treatment to those at risk of losing their vision.

“We’re the ‘knights of vision,’” said Renteria. “This is a big thing for us; it’s something we look forward to doing every year.”