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Lions Clubs hoping to test vision of all Fort Mill students

The Lions Clubs in Tega Cay and Fort Mill are working with schools and daycare centers to identify children with vision problems earlier – before they become more serious.

The Lions Clubs have raised $9,000 – including a $4,000 grant from the Springs Close Foundation – to buy a sophisticated diagnostic instrument that quickly and accurately screens eyesight across all age groups, said Hope MacBride, program coordinator for the Tega Cay Lions.

The clubs bought the Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screener in May, MacBride said, and have trained Lions members how to use it to detect major vision issues, such as astigmatism, nearsightedness and farsightedness.

“We’re anxious to get out there and get started,” she said.

The device cost $7,000, MacBride said, and the remaining $2,000 will help pay for eye exams and glasses for children who qualify. The Lions hope to raise $2,000 a year to maintain the device and continue to provide exams.

The screener is used similarly to a camera and requires no participation on the part of the patient, unlike the traditional eye chart method.

That eliminates any chance of a patient memorizing a chart or cheating in any way, said Dr. Larry Jerge of Tega Cay Eye Care. It can also be used on children as young as 6 months, who cannot be tested with an eye chart.

The traditional method often detects vision issues only after they have progressed, Jerge said, and early detection is critical to avoid vision problems later in life.

“If early dental care is important,” he said, “why not eye care too?”

The use of the vision screener also will reduce the work load for school nurses, who have to screen every student, Jerge said. The eventual goal is to screen each of the more than 12,000 Fort Mill students each year.

The Lions hope to soon start screening students in Fort Mill schools, as well as children in day care centers, MacBride said.

“To catch children before they even start school would be great,” she said.