Seven Schools, Two Weeks, One Purpose: Eye Care for New York Kids

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VSP Global is committed to closing the gap in access to comprehensive eye exams and eyewear. That’s why we recently joined a unique collaboration of organizations in New York to try to help children throughout the state get the access they need to VSP network doctors.

The New York State Education Department worked in partnership with the New York State Optometric Association, VSP Global, and the New York State Society of Opticians to provide access to no-cost eye exams and glasses to students at seven schools across New York as part of School Vision Health Month in October. A total of 152 students received comprehensive eye exams, which can help discover vision issues and eye health conditions early on, and more than 60% of the students seen needed glasses.

Dr. KirchheimerAltogether, 17 doctors participated throughout the seven-school tour. One of them was Dan Kirchheimer, OD, who is also the secretary and treasurer for NYSOA.

“I enjoy giving back any way I can,” said Dr. Kirchheimer, who is also a volunteer firefighter. The event tapped into the spirit of helping the community he pursues in everything he does. “Being able to come to an event like this is really something I look forward to doing. I view it as us changing a life. Somebody that may not have access to care suddenly gets a pair of glasses that can change their whole world.”

Schools participating included Wales Primary School in East Aurora, Prospect Elementary School and Seneca Intermediate School in Salamanca, Minoa Elementary School in Minoa, Waverly Central School District in Waverly, Northern Adirondack Central School District in Ellenburg, and Fort Edward Union Free School District in Fort Edward. Each school also received a supply of Eyes of Hope gift certificates, which will provide a no-cost eye exam and glasses through local eye doctors on an ongoing basis.

“I had a boy today with a condition where his eyes basically appear to wiggle back and forth,” Kirchheimer said. “That’s a condition called nystagmus. It has some interesting neurological implications. Probably in his case it was congenital, meaning he was born with it, and he said that they had mentioned it before, but it’s something that should be monitored.”

Patients with glassesSchool Vision Health Month, and the seven-school tour, were important undertakings that united key decision makers in New York.

“It’s a milestone because it’s bipartisan, meaning the legislature’s on board,” he said. “Both Republicans and Democrats, and both the Senate and the Assembly. It’s not that often that we find something that far reaching, so it’s cool for that reason. And how can you not get behind children’s vision? That’s a cause everyone can get behind.”

After the success of this year’s effort, Kirchheimer and others would like to see it become something that continues for years to come.

“This is the first of many, we very much hope,” Dr. Kirchheimer said. “And we think that as this program develops, we can really make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

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