Lions provide vision screenings in schools

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BENNINGTON — For the third year, three local Lions clubs are teaming together to provide free vision screenings at area schools.

The Norshaft, Bennington and Arlington clubs will visit at least 20 local schools this fall, according to program coordinator Phylis Porio with the Norshaft Lions. The students, from pre-school to high school, will be screened by a group of 20 volunteers from across the three clubs.

Lions Clubs Charities, the fundraising arm of Vermont Lions District 45, which comprises the 36 clubs in Vermont, provides the screening equipment, which is manufactured at Mack Molding in Arlington. Local funds for the clubs are raised through a number of events, such as pancake breakfasts, bingo nights, Oktoberfest, and more.

Porio said that plans are in place for a community screening for children later in the fall, but a date has not yet been set.

"I think its a very important activity we do," Porio said. "It's an exciting event."

Porio, who started coordinating screenings for the southwest corner of the state and is now the statewide program coordinator, works with school nurses to determine when the best time is to perform the screenings. In order to protect student anonymity, students are given numbers, and the results are attached to those rather than to the students' names. The nurses then refers the parents of children who need further testing to an optometrist.

"I was one of the early supporters of this, and I was comfortable giving presentations and training," said Porio on why she was asked to lead the program.

The screening takes under a minute per child. The equipment tests for seven conditions, including near and farsightedness, lazy eye and astigmatism. Doris Alderman, a volunteer with the Bennington club, estimated that about 10 percent of the students screened end up needing further testing done.

Eyesight is one of Lions Clubs International's defining causes. Clubs around the world participate in vision screenings, eyeglass recycling, and much more, according to the organization's website. In the state of Vermont last year, 23 Lions clubs screened 19,000 children in 102 communities. Around the world, Lions have screened over 19 million children.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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