Skip to Content

Lions school vision training helps Oregon students


When school begins in the fall, that’s also the time when the Lions of Oregon and their Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation get to work with school vision screening.

Lions Clubs were founded in 1917 and quickly took on vision as their main cause when they were challenged at their International Convention in 1925 by American Icon, Helen Keller, to “become the Knights of the blind in the fight against darkness”.

In 1959, the Lions of Oregon formed the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation to do more in their communities to further the mission of the Lions: “We Serve.”

In 1994, OLSHF began its Mobile Health Screening Program with a tractor/trailer rig intended to help uninsured and under-insured adults get access to healthcare. School nurses quickly found out about what the Lions were offering and before any Lion knew it, most of the people they were serving every year on that big trailer, were elementary school students.

Those school vision screening efforts by the Lions Club members all over Oregon slowly grew to an average of 25,000 students screened per year. As long-time OLSHF staff member Lion Wally Anderson says: “We just didn’t think it could get any better than that!”.

But the Board of Trustees of OLSHF re-engineered their goals and developed the “20/20 Vision Plan,” a way to bring vision screening to all of the elementary and middle school students in Oregon by the year 2020. That plan included a capital campaign and personnel increases and a “change of venue” from the old semi-truck to bringing the screenings into the school building so there would be less disruption to the class day. Lions annual screening totals rose to almost 50,000 students.

These screenings are, in part, mandated by an Oregon Administrative Rule that arose from a House Bill passed in 2013 which was championed by Lions and OLSHF.

Then, in the 2013-2014 school year, OLSHF completed testing and acquired some new technology that would radically change not just the methodology of school vision screening, but its efficiency and effectiveness and a whole new program was evolving. That first year, the Lions and OLSHF helped screen over 76,000 students.

More changes came with the hiring of Lions members in all parts of Oregon to be school vision screening coordinators and using hard won grant funds (including LCIF dollars) to purchase more high tech equipment. These steps forward resulted in over 183,000 school students all over Oregon having their vision screened during the 2017-2018 school year

Today, local Lions all over Oregon, join with parent volunteers, high school students and other community volunteers to conduct these screenings using state-of-the-art student vision screening technology that is extremely efficient and highly effective.

The SPOT device, from Welch-Allyn, takes 13 different measures of the student’s eye, detecting 8 different conditions including myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), astigmatism, strabismus (gaze deviation), amblyopia (lazy eye) and more. On average, Lions school vision screenings find just under 11% of the students in need of complete eye exams by eye care professionals.

These screenings take only seconds, are completely objective and never get closer than about a meter from the student. Various sources rate the accuracy of SPOT vision screenings above 92% and Pediatric Optometrists value the reports that are generated.

Teachers and administrators are very supportive of this program due to its effectiveness and the fact that students are out of the classroom for such a short time, usually only 5 minutes per class. School Nurses are very excited about this program because the screenings are of such quality and because it takes a huge amount of work off their shoulders. Tigard-Tualatin School Nurses Paula, Nancy, Kathy and Hedeya have worked with the Lions and OLSHF for years and value this partnership.

Lions and other volunteers can often screen as many as 275 students per hour, completing screenings in schools, often with populations of over 500 and more, in just a couple of hours. Long-time Tualatin Lion Ed Casey and Tualatin Elementary mom, Emily Galloway, were part of the screener team that worked with a staffer from the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation on Monday, October 15th at Tualatin Elementary, with over 460 students, and they screened all of those students in less than two hours.

Parents are also very supportive of school vision screening of the quality supplied by the Lions. At this recent screening, Tualatin mom Emily Galloway related that she was aware of the importance of early vision screening for children and that her own second-grader, Claire, wears glasses every day and has consistently been a better, more involved student because she is able to see better. OLSHF hears similar stories from grateful parents all the time.

The data that is collected from these screenings is securely encrypted and quickly transmitted back to the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation in Portland where it is collated and returned to the school, usually the school nurse, by Tuesday of the following week.

That report contains full information on the screenings of all of the students with very complete reports for all the students who should see an eye care professional, including resources for families who may be uninsured or under-insured. Those resources include VSP’s “Sight for Students” program, the Oregon Health Plan and the KEX Kids Fund, a long standing program for funding exams and eyeglasses for school aged children in Oregon.

The school vision screening has been a public/private partnership from its inception, but there are costs involved and this is an expensive program, costing, on average $3.20 per student. Lions worked hard to raise money for school vision screening, but with other needs in the community, such as exams and eyeglasses and hearing aids for adults, support for local food banks, the Oregon Food Bank, as well as other charitable service, the dollars were falling behind the need.

In 2017, the Lions helped shepherd a public funding bill, known as Senate Bill 187, to help defray the costs of school vision screening and solidify the “public/private partnership.”

In a difficult budget year, SB187 was unanimously passed in all committee hearings and the floors of both the house and senate and it was signed into law by Governor Brown in July of 2017.

While this generous funding is a great help, it only covers approximately 35% of students and Lions have had to continue their efforts to raise the remainder. Work has already begun for the coming legislative session to continue and improve the public/private partnership that provides this important service to students all over Oregon. Lion Ed Casey said that school vision screening epitomizes the Lions motto of: “We Serve.”

As the year 2020 quickly approaches, the Lions of Oregon and their Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation will continue to work hard to serve their communities in a variety of ways, but especially in helping children reach their full educational potential through school vision screening and providing resources to parents so their children can see better, read at grade level or better and be fully engaged in their educational experience.

For more information, please go to and and“>

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

KTVZ News Team


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content