BERLIN — Last week members of the Berlin Lions Club spent the afternoon as they do with some regularity — giving free eye exams to young children. The exams are not the type typically associated with a rip to the optometrist. In fact, they aren’t in any way meant to replace a regular doctor’s office visit.
What they are though is part of the Lions Club’s mission to help people prevent or overcome eye maladies. The are also part of the frank admission that sometimes kids don’t make it to the eye doctor as often as they should. This is why the tests that they give to every county child under the age of 6 that they can reach is aimed not at checking for vision inadequacies but in trying to detect Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye.
“When Amblyopia is detected in children under six, 95 percent of the time they can have their vision saved or restored,” said Donna Burke, the Berlin resident who administers the program for all the Lions Clubs on the Lower Easter Shore.
The clubs, she said, have been doing this for about 10 years as part of their local philanthropic efforts. Although the gear was expensive, the test isn’t difficult to administer and the program runs primarily on the sweat of the volunteers.
The Lions Clubs try and get to every school and head start center in the area that will have them. Last week they paid their annual visit to Buckingham Elementary to test the kids there.
They set up shop in the school library and took kids one at a time through the process. The first part involves having the child look into the vision screening machine and noting the measurements. The second is a depth-perception test.
During this test, a child wears special 3-D glasses and has to try and touch an object floating before them.
Ron Miller, who has been a club member for about five years, watches to see if the kids can see that the object — in this case a butterfly — appears to be floating about the screen by asking them to try and grab its wings.
While the Lions do the checking, members of the Berlin Lioness Club handle the paperwork in the back.
“Each child has a permission slip and we check to make sure that is in order” said Suzanne Parks, one of the two women on duty last week.
Depending on the readings, the Lions send a note home that either tells the parents they detected nothing or advises them to seek professional care for their kid’s eyes. In the case that a child doesn’t have a permission slip, they send home a notice that the child wasn’t checked with a recommendation that a check be arranged.
“It’s not too complicated,” said Bernice Magnone, the other Lioness on duty.
In addition to the regular checkups the Lions also accept and distribute used glasses to those in need. To find out more about the Berlin Lions visit http://www.berlinlions.com.