Danny Perez’s eyes opened wide in surprise as soon as his new glasses were perched on his nose.
“This looks blurry,” said the Townley Elementary fourth-grader as he removed and then replaced them. “But this really looks better.”
The new glasses, as well as eye exams, are part of the Kids Vision for Life program, which kicked off its Tarrant County initiative Tuesday in Everman. Organizers hope to screen 3,000 students in Everman before the end of the year.
The North Texas-based Alcon and Essilor Vision foundations are sponsoring the program, which screened 2,100 children in Dallas County last year and distributed hundreds of pairs of glasses. Local donor partners are being recruited among the business and education communities in the Fort Worth area.
Tuesday’s event was also the debut of the Mobile Vision Van, a combination exam room and lens lab that enables optometrists and lensmakers to screen students for vision problems, order lenses and fit frames, and send children home with new glasses during a single day.
“They are able to do a lot more than we can,” said Misty VanCampen, school nurse at Townley, the district’s newest campus, which opened in August. “At my school last year, we had over 800 students, and I had to personally screen half of them myself.”
VanCampen said the optometrists and other volunteers could check students for more serious degenerative eye diseases as well as common vision problems. Some 70 volunteers from among Alcon’s employees helped with the screenings, and optometrists donated their time.
Alcon Laboratories, a developer and maker of ophthalmic pharmaceuticals and equipment, has its national headquarters in Fort Worth. Essilor of America, an optical lens manufacturer, is based in Dallas.
Students are eligible for free glasses if they lack insurance coverage or have financial need, and the screenings will be conducted in all Everman elementary and intermediate schools three days a week through the end of the year. Organizers plan to extend the program to the Fort Worth school district and other Tarrant school systems.
“I didn’t know I needed glasses,” said Danny, who is 9 and was not shy about addressing the dignitaries earlier during the morning’s program. “Now I can get 100s almost every time.”
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