Local foundation gives grant to eye care program
Published 7:00 am Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Sight Savers America Children’s Eye Care Network will continue to provide eye care services this year through the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation.
This year, the local foundation gave its seventh grant of $40,000 to the program, which provides vision screens and offers recurrent eye care to children in Pearl River and Hancock counties.
The partnership between the foundation and the program began in 2009, when Clyde Dease, Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation Board President and Assistant Director, learned about the eye care program.
“This program caught my eye. It was different in a way, for me. This was the first program I heard of that not only did vision screening, but assigned case managers to children, who failed the screening, and offered medical services to help those children,” Dease said.
Founded in 1997 in Alabama, the Sight Savers program began after Dr. Jeffrey Haddox, CEO and president of Sight Savers, saw the need for children’s eye care programs.
Since 2009, the program has been offering its services locally by conducting visual screenings at schools for second and fourth graders.
Haddox said the program uses a digital vision screener called, Plusoptix, in order to screen every child.
“It takes one second to screen a child. The screener takes a picture of the eye, and determines if there’s an issue,” Haddox said.
Haddox said, on average, 20 percent of the children screened fail the exam. If they do, he said the program works with the child and their family in order to arrange comprehensive eye exams, among other services.
During the 2013-2014 school year, the program provided a local child with the eye medical care she needed. After she failed a vision-screening test at school, which was conducted by Sight Savers, the program arranged for the child to receive a free comprehensive eye exam and gave her a pair of glasses, free of charge, after learning of her family’s financial situation.
“The bottom line is having better vision allows a child to read better. A CDC study reported that 80 percent of everything you learn is through your vision sense. So when you have better vision, it will make these children productive citizens when they reach adulthood,” Haddox said.
This year, the program is also screening kindergarteners in Picayune.
“Kindergarteners in Picayune haven’t been screened for a while now, and we stepped in to fill that void,” Haddox said.
Since the partnership began, Dease said the foundation has given more than $200,000 in grants to the program.
“The foundation has been great partners for us for all these years, and this wouldn’t have happened without the help of the foundation,” Haddox said.