Lions providing KidSight program

Colleen Maki, a member of the Bay de Noc Lions Club, demonstrates how Project KidSight program works on Monday at the Women’s Federated Clubhouse in Marquette. The program is funded by the Lions of Michigan Foundation. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — A special camera that chirps can help determine how well a child sees.

The Lions of Michigan Foundation’s Project KidSight program uses a camera that makes these sounds to capture a kid’s attention to result in a proper vision screening.

Colleen Maki, a member of the Bay de Noc Lions Club and Lions District 10 co-chair for Project KidSight, explained the program to local Lions on Monday at the Women’s Federated Clubhouse in Marquette.

During events, volunteers will use the camera to take a quick snapshot of children’s eyes.

“In that one or two seconds that it takes to focus in on their eyes, it prints out a report that’s either pass or a fail,” Maki said.

The Marquette Lions Club will host a free children’s vision screening at the Westwood Mall on Saturday and Sunday. The screening room will be in the rear of the mall near the former J.C. Penney. Donations of used eyeglasses will be accepted.

The KidSight program is geared toward identifying treatable and preventable causes of vision loss in children ages 6 months to 5 years. Children of all ages can be screened, but the target age is preschool children.

“The one thing that parents can often be afraid of is that you’re going to be invasive,” Maki said of the screenings.

The Lions screenings, however, won’t be like a regular eye doctor’s visit.

Instead, Maki said a volunteer can move much farther away from a child to take pictures of their eyes.

A little stuffed Lions toy can be placed on the camera to further make it easier for the child to look at the camera properly.

The camera is “smart enough,” Maki said, to change settings based on the child’s age. It also will determine whether the person behind the camera is too close or far away from the subject.

Additionally, the program can be convenient for the volunteers.

“The cameras and the printers are portable,” Maki said. “They can go anywhere.”

They also can serve, she pointed out, as important outreach tools for the Lions.

“The more people that know what it is that we do, the more opportunities you may find for those events,” she said. “You could talk to day care providers. You could find a church school.”

During Monday’s program, Maki showed how the screening report works, with red lines potentially showing problems with conditions for which the screenings test, such as myopia and astigmatism.

The Lions, she noted, have screened many kids over two years at the Upper Peninsula State Fair.

With one boy, the result was particularly bad.

“None of us had seen anything that horrible,” Maki said. “We go up to show mom and dad, and they just about went into tears because they had no idea.”

His parents discussed the report between themselves, then went back to the Lions.

Maki said they asked how the problem was undiagnosed.

“And I said, ‘Because they don’t know what they don’t see,'” she said. “He was 4 years old. He had no idea. That probably had been his reality for his entire life.”

Another child was screened at the fair, Maki said, and eventually got glasses.

Make said the child’s mother was driving over the Ford River bridge when the child said to her, “Mom, there’s water down there.”

That incident, Maki said, again showed that they “didn’t know what they didn’t know.”

According to the Lions, when problems are detected, a detailed report identifying potential problems is provided to a parent or guardian for further follow-up with an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

If diagnosed early, 95% of vision disorders can be corrected. When not detected early, a child’s vision can deteriorate to the point of irreversible blindness, and over time, treatment options diminish and the cost of treatment increases.

Maki pointed out that parents who are economically disadvantaged are not going to take their child to the eye doctor only to find out that everything’s OK, with buying groceries, for example, taking precedence.

With a written report showing the results of an eye screening, that might make budgeting decisions easier, she said.

Maki provided several written testimonials about the vision program.

“Victoria had a juvenile cataract in her left eye,” Amy F. of downstate Gobles was quoted as saying. “The doctors believe she was born with a defect in the back of her eye, and it was never identified during her well-child checkup. If it was not for the Lions Club, Victoria would have lost her vision in that eye.”

Maki said, “We’re going out there and doing service, and providing this, but what you get back, I can’t even quantify for myself.”

For more information about the Marquette Lions Club, check Facebook at marquettelions, visit marquettelions.org or call 906-250-1596.


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