The Woodbury Lions Club KidSight program detects eyesight issues.
To John and Katie Degelmann, their son, Teddy, was a normal, happy, smiley 4-year-old boy. So, when he was flagged for a potential eye issue at his preschool in Woodbury, the Degelmanns were initially skeptical.
“We took Teddy to an eye care professional here in Woodbury, and he came back essentially as legally blind. We were absolutely blown away,” John says.
Teddy’s first screening took place at The Grove United Methodist Church. Volunteers with Woodbury Lions Club were on hand that day taking part in a nation-wide effort (Lions KidSight USA Foundation) to provide free eye screenings to children under the age of 6.
Outside of noticing that Teddy was more of a cautious child, John says there weren’t a lot of signs that his son was having problems with his eyesight.
“He didn’t walk until he was 17 months. He would walk on his knees. That’s what you do when you can’t see a level floor,” John says.
His son’s eye exams at his pediatric clinic didn’t raise a lot of red flags either. “Teddy would sit there and go through the tests, and he would be able to make out most of the letters on the little chart,” John says.
Today, Teddy, now 7 years old, wears glasses and is doing much better but still struggles, John says. “There’s light sensitivity issues; there is color issues with his form of astigmatism,” he says.
According to the KidSight USA Foundation’s website, eye chart screenings can be subjective and can miss potential issues, such as farsightedness, amblyopia factors, low-grade cases of myopia and astigmatism.
Woodbury Lions Club program organizer Matthew Johnson says the touchless screening device it uses takes a three-dimensional picture of the child’s eyes. Within seconds, a volunteer receives a test result telling them whether the child should be referred to an optometrist.
“We’re not eye doctors. We’re just volunteers. The device helps us identify kids that should maybe get a second look,” Johnson says.
The Woodbury Lions Club works within the community to set up screening dates for residents. Just last year, the organization visited 21 different schools and sites hosting special events. “We’ve done some screenings at Bailey Elementary and Liberty Ridge Elementary. New Life Academy has welcomed us, as well,” Johnson says. “From what we understand, Woodbury has around 6,000 to 7,000 children in that age demographic. At our peak, we’re seeing 1,500 to 2,000 by that method alone. We struggle to find ways that are efficient enough to get to the other 4,000 to 5,000 that are out there.”
For Teddy’s family, John says they owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Woodbury Lions Club. “You can never really repay something like that … He got diagnosed in 2019, it was the summer and then we went right into COVID-19 in 2020. The timing was just unbelievable,” he says.
Parents of children ages 6 months to 6 years interested in having their child participate in a free eye screening by the Woodbury Lions Club can make a request to school administrators to have the organization come into their daycare, preschool or elementary school.
Meanwhile, the Degelmanns will never forget what it was like to watch Teddy put on eyeglasses for the first time.
“It was a sunny day, and he was standing on our front porch, and we put those glasses on him and he got himself into a real wide stance,” John says. “I always remember. It was like watching someone prepare to get hit by a wave. It was almost like he was seeing the world for the first time. He didn’t say a word. He was just looking around with his mouth wide open.”