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Kids’ vision screened at fly-in

Staff photo by Gage Cureton Brad Kirk, New Ulm Lions KidSight chairman, administers a free vision screening to Aubrey Blackstad, 11, inside a tent station at the 46th Annual Fly-in Breakfast at the Municipal Airport Sunday. The free vision screening is part of a national program called Lions KidSight USA that provides free vision tests to children.

NEW ULM — Kaden Suggs, 2, may need an eye exam.

Suggs’ mother, Kimberly Enck, said she’ll probably bring the toddler in for an eyesight exam after he underwent a free vision screening for kids at the 46th Annual Fly-in Pancake Breakfast sponsored by the Lions Club of New Ulm.

While rainy skies kept small private planes from across Minnesota and Iowa from stopping by the pancake breakfast at the Municipal Airport, hundreds still flocked to the hangar, and dozens of children received free vision tests.

Bob Schirlinger, a member of the Lions Club, said the free vision screening is part of a national program called Lions KidSight USA that’s sponsored by the club. The program’s goal is to ensure children receive eye screenings and follow-up care when needed.

The program is in its third year of existence in New Ulm, Schirlinger said, and most of the kids they screen are between the ages of two-months-old and six years of age.

“Those are the years, traditionally, once the child has left the hospital when they’re born, unless the parents step forward, they don’t get checked again until they start school,” he said. “So those kids that are maybe two years old and developing eyesight problems, this is the way to catch them.”

The vision screenings, given by New Ulm Lions KidSight Chairman Brad Kirk, are conducted by a small handheld and non-intrusive device called a Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screening system.

Set up in a dark tent to ensure pupils are dilated, Kirk screened children and young adults via the device that emits a multi-colored light beam that scans the pupils.

“They might be fine, but if our machine found something abnormal, they might want to follow up,” Kirk said.

According to a pamphlet from Lions KidSight USA, the spot device does not take the place of a professional eye exam, but it may provide an indication that a professional eye exam may be required.

The device screens for eight potential eyesight issues such as near- and farsightedness, astigmatism, anisometropia, crossed eyes, unequal pupil size and lazy eye.

Kirk said the screening process takes seconds, and once it’s completed, a basic vision screening summary is printed out at the station and given to parents or guardians. The report may also be given to a vision care professional or provider, given the choice.

Kirk said the KidSight program and Lions volunteers may also conduct vision screenings at daycare centers, preschools and other community events such as the New Ulm Home Show. He said they conducted about 150 eye exams at the home show, and the Lions Club is looking to expand the KidSight program.

“We’d like to get out more and do more,” Kirk said. “We’ve just got to get the contacts and get the word out about what we’re doing.”

The Annual Fly-in Pancake Breakfast is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the New Ulm Lions Club, and proceeds amount to about two-thirds of their yearly budget. Schirlinger said the Lions club may serve up to 1,700 people every year during the event. He thanked sponsors for helping the breakfast continue year after year.

Gage Cureton can be emailed at gcureton@nujournal.com.

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