Seeing the smiles and hearing their voices ring out “I can see, I can see better” was a very big deal for Wayne Castleberry, committee chairman for local Rotary club’s project “We Can See Clearly Now.”
Castleberry, along with members from Conexus Vision, the nation’s non-profit consumer advocacy group for all issues related to healthy vision, witnessed the smiles and voices of 20 students from Elizabeth Scott Elementary School Thursday as they received their prescription glasses.
Through the Rotarys project, Conexus screened 3,585 students in Chesterfield’s Title I elementary schools. From the initial screening, they provided 263 professional eye exams and delivered 197 pairs of eyeglasses over the last few months.
Castleberry said the pilot project falls within four of Rotary’s areas of focus; fighting disease, saving mothers and children, supporting education, and growing local economies. He added that it was his wife that inspired him to move forward with the project.
“My wife had a problem seeing when she was in elementary school,” he said. “When she got her glasses she said her grades went from C’s and D’s to A’s and B’s, and I have seen her report cards to prove it.”
Castleberry is a member of the James River Rotary Club, and he brought together five additional clubs to participate in the project. He would like to take it statewide and nationwide for Rotary. “We want to get everyone inspired for children and their vision. You can see the difference it makes in a child’s life and smiles on their faces,” he said.
Along with James River Rotary, the additional Rotary clubs involved are Bon Air, Huguenot Trail, Chester, Midlothian, and Petersburg.
With additional funding, the total cost of the project was $25,000. Castleberry said they will continue this project year after year.
Melissa Perry, of Conexus had the privilege fitting the students with their new glasses. “It is so amazing to see their faces [with their glasses on for the first time.] To actually bring it full circle is pretty incredible,” she said.
One in four children has undetected vision problems. The mission of Conexus is to eliminate undetected and untreated vision problems as barriers to success, enabling all children to reach their full potential.
“We have always provided vision screening,” said Tim Gresham, president and CEO of Conexus. “This is the first time going through the entire process, bringing the doctor into the school and coming back with glasses. Because of a study with VCU and Vision Service Plan, we were able to test all kindergarten and third-grade students. The study with VCU only involves third-grade students.”
Vision Service provided the very latest in digital technology for screening. “It is the finest and best vision screening in the world, and we are doing it right here in Chesterfield County,” Gresham said.
The technology takes a picture of the eyes, which allows for no language barriers. “We were able to create vision lanes and screen a classroom in less than 10 minutes. It is remarkable,” Gresham said.
Jullie Buntich, principal at Elizabeth Scott Elementary,
was very excited for the children. “I am ecstatic,” she said. “They [the 20 students] have been asking me for days when they were going to get their glasses. After their examination they wore the black-shaded glasses the rest of the day in school, and they thought they were so cool. We really take our eyesight for granted,” she added, “I am sure their reading skills will improve.”