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Local donations finance high-tech vision screener at Sunflowers Early Ed Center
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McKinley Phillips, Sunflower early intervention teacher, left, and Cathy Estes, Sunflower childrens services coordinator, review literature from the Kansas Lions Sight Foundation that explains the new Spot vision screener. - photo by Courtesy photos

              When Cathy Estes presented information about the need for a new vision-screening device to the Great Bend Noon Lions Club, she was hoping her audience would come through for children with sight problems.

          “And, boy, did they come through,” said Estes, children’s services coordinator at Sunflower Diversified’s Early Education Center (EEC).

Sylvia Reinhardt of the Kansas Lions Sight Foundation joined Estes at the same meeting, and shared specific information about the Pediavision Spot Vision Screener.

          The Spot is designed for children as young as 6 months. It will detect astigmatism, nearsightedness, farsightedness and differences between the two eyes. A “gaze analysis” helps determine eye misalignment, lazy eye and pupil size abnormalities.

          “The local Lions immediately pledged $2,000 and their secretary sent a letter to the other Lions clubs in our five-county service area,” Estes said. “Laverne Lessor encouraged his colleagues to get involved in this fundraising effort and they generously responded.”

          In addition, Golden Belt Community Foundation donated $2,000 to the effort; another $500 came from Bill and Yvonne Robbins through the Robbins Family Fund at GBCF.

The result is the $7,600 Spot has been ordered and the first screening will be scheduled after the first of the year. The Great Bend Noon and Evening Lions will own the equipment but it will be housed at the EEC, 1312 Patton.

          “I cannot tell you how grateful we are to everyone for this amazing equipment,” Estes said. “We will be able to offer vision screenings that take only seconds to perform and are accurate; the old way was cumbersome and not as reliable. If any problems are detected, the child will be referred to a doctor.”

          All screenings for vision, hearing and other developmental concerns are free at the EEC.

          A vision problem is the single most prevalent disabling condition among children, and an undiagnosed or untreated disorder clearly leaves a child behind in the classroom, according to the Lions Sight Foundation.

          To illustrate the extent of the problem: 25 percent of school-age children in the U.S. have a vision problem; 70 percent of juvenile delinquents have a vision issue; and 80 percent of children diagnosed with a learning disability have an untreated vision problem.

          “These are some of the reasons vision screening is so important,” Estes commented. “Since a problem might not be recognized early on because an infant cannot communicate, we must screen our youngsters.”

          The Spot is handheld and requires minimal training; it offers thorough, easy-to-understand results within seconds.

          The screener will remain at the EEC but other entities may also have access to it. “We will collaborate with our community partners such as health departments, special education programs and Head Start in screening children,” Estes explained.

          The EEC is one of 36 tiny-k networks in Kansas. All its services are free to families in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.