The Louisiana Lions Eye Foundation Cubsight motto is "Ensuring a brighter tomorrow for our children."
Pre-K and kindergarten students at Vidalia Lower Elementary got an up close and personal look at how that works as the Vidalia Lions Club sponsored an eye screening at the school on April 10.
"I want to thank the Louisiana Lions Eye Foundation and Cubsight director Cherie Foret for spearheading this project," said Vidalia Lions Club President Joey Martin. "We have not had an eye screening in the parish since 2003. We appreciate the cooperation of the Concordia Parish School Board and Vidalia Lower Elementary administrators and teachers. We plan to expand this program to other schools in the parish by next year."
Of the 55 students tested, four came up with referrals.
"If we can catch something before they are six years old, there's a good chance usually we can correct the problem because the eyes are still developing," Foret said.
Assisting with the screenings were Larry Chauvin of the Vidalia Lions Club, and his wife; and First Baptist Vidalia members Vickie Fort, Peggy June, Donna Carraway and Sarah Armstrong.
Parents of the children had to fill out forms allowing their students to be tested.
Those tested stood looking into a camera that would indicate if the student passed or if there was a problem such as stigmatism, near-sightedness, far-sightedness or another eye problem.
If “refer” came up on the screen, the students and the school would be presented with a paper sighting referral.
"We will also call and make sure the parent has taken the necessary steps of making an appointment with an eye doctor," Foret said.
Although a part of the Louisiana Lions Eye Foundation (LLEF), the Cubsight program is a project unto itself. Where the LLEF is the financial arm of Louisiana Lions, Cubsight is an active arm.
Using state-of-the-art technology that detects amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye, Lions members themselves are able to non-intrusively screen the eyes of preschool children from ages 1 to 6 at no charge. The results of those screens are sent to the doctors of the LLEF for evaluation. If those doctors detect a problem, the parents are notified to take the child to their family eye doctor for further evaluation.
In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, more than 22,000 children were screened, with only 20 percent being referred for evaluation, but that is 20 percent with a chance at sight.
Foret said 28,389 children were tested last year and that number has already been surpassed this year.
Foret has been in the Lion's Club since 2004.
"My dad was a Lion so it was basically a given I would be in the club," Foret said. "My dad knows I have a passion for children, so he told me I needed to do this. I love working with kids and love being able to assist with this program."
Foret said she wishes more parents would allow their children to be tested.
"It's frustrating," she said of the number of children who did not have permission slips. "It doesn't make sense to me for parents not to take advantage of something that is free and can detect any early problem with their eyesight."