Madras High School Junior Keith Charley III waited patiently in a hallway at Warm Springs K-8 Academy for a brand-new pair of prescription eyeglasses during the 509J Vision Project last week.
“It’s a really cool experience that it comes the same day you get your eyes checked,” he said.
Charley was one of 81 students who went through theVision Clinic at Warm Springs K-8 Academy in late April. The OneSight Essilor Luxottica Foundation and another anonymous nonprofit foundation, made the clinic possible. Their mobile clinic and eyeglass manufacturer unit provides comprehensive eye exams and prescription eyeglasses. Their mission is to help eliminate uncorrected poor vision in a generation.
Charley is now one of the students whose life is improved because OneSight provided eyeglasses free of cost.
“I’ve known I needed glasses since the third grade,” he said. “They put me in the back of the class and I couldn’t see the board. I told my teacher and she called my parents and I got my eyes checked and it turned out I needed glasses.”
He had two pairs of glasses that he used, but he lost both of them unfortunately and has been without a pair since.
The clinic set up shop in Warm Springs on Thursday, April 27 and Madras Performing Arts Center on Friday, April 28. In those two days, they sent glasses and a new prescription home with 143 students in the Jefferson County School District. Buses transported students on “vision field trips” from JCMS, Metolius and Bridges. While students walked from Buff Elementary, Madras Elementary and Madras High School.
“I think that it’s going to improve their quality of life and make it easier to learn,” Jefferson County School District Nurse Christina Kelley said.
Kelley was instrumental in setting up the clinic and bringing the nonprofit organization to Jefferson County. It all started after the Lions Club performed their annual vision screenings in the Fall of 2022. Approximately 20 percent of students screened were flagged because they needed to see an eye doctor.
“We recognized a basic need that was not being met.” Kelley said.
She realized that a large number of students needed help and that it was too many students for the local eye providers to schedule at their clinics. She sent an email to OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute mobile outreach center and asked if they could help. OHSU had been contacted by Onesight Foundation because they had a large donation specifically for a rural area in Oregon and reached out to OHSU around the same time as they received the email from nurse Kelley.
“The rest is history,” she said.
This put the gears in motion to bring the clinic to Jefferson County for a three-day event. Two of the days were centered around serving students, and the third day was at Jefferson County Public Health to help meet the needs of uninsured adults with vision problems.
Kelley started compiling a list of students that needed to be seen. With support from the 509J leadership team, she began planning in December. She named the project the 509 Vision Project and even had a donation from St. Charles Foundation and the Bean Foundation to help host the crew of 20 volunteers. She reached out to teachers and our District’s liaisons that serve different student populations to help her identify which students were in need of help.
Our District then reviewed and triaged the needs of the students by having the Onesight doctor review the vision screening report for each of our students that failed the vision screening and flag the students that needed glasses. Our health team worked endlessly on obtaining medical consents and making phone calls to all students that were referred for help. This resulted in approximately 80% of the students that came to the vision clinic getting glasses.
“We still have students in need, but we were able to make a difference and help 143 students get glasses.” she said.
One of those students is Gerardo. A kindergarten student that attends Warm Springs K-8 Academy. He received a brand new pair of prescription glasses after going through the clinic.
“I can see!” He exclaimed to the room after putting on his glasses for the first time.
He was not alone as many students experienced what it was like to see clearly for the first time after receiving their glasses.
The clinic walked students through a number of tests to determine what prescription would best fit their needs.
“We have visual acuities, we have color and depth perception,” Clinic Manager Steve Stockton said. “We do NCT which is glaucoma testing, and we have health checks.”
Once the students completed those exams, they went onto the mobile clinic where the optometrists conducted their exams. It is a two-lane mobile clinic and the eye doctors are able to do about 100 eye exams per day. There were three doctors seeing patients in the mobile clinic.
Also, on the mobile clinic are more than 100 pairs of lenses. There is a laboratory where the lenses are cut and matched with a brand new frame the student choose earlier in the process.
“Kids actually leave with glasses the same day,” Stockton said.
Stockton has been doing this work for about 15 years now. His favorite part of his role is seeing the kids put on a pair of glasses and how that can change their life.
“Well, statistically one in four kids in the United States have some visual impairment. So, if you really think about that, if you can’t see you can’t learn and that makes an impact,” he said.
Charley is one of those kids that will have an easier time learning in class with a new pair of glasses. While waiting for his glasses to be put together, he was looking forward to being able to see clearer.
“Hopefully, I can read better without squinting,” he said. “I don’t like squinting, and honestly, I just like glasses and I think they look cool.”
Altogether, 185 students were seen in the during the 509J Vision Clinics. That is 185 lives that will improve thanks to better vision.
“I think it’s gonna give them some hope,” Kelley said.
She is beyond thankful for the OneSight Foundation and all of the volunteers who took time out of their lives to help improve the lives of students and adults in Jefferson County, Oregon.
“I’m just humbled by all the people who have taken time out of their lives to come here and help our students, it feels great to be able to help them.”