BRAWLEY— The Imperial Valley Lions Club held its 15th annual vision mission on Saturday, December 4, during which residents were offered free eye exams and prescription glasses for children and adults. People over 55 have been tested for glaucoma.
According to Larry Hudson, President and CEO of the Imperial Valley Lions Medical Foundation, there are no requirements to attend the eye health event other than answering two simple questions regarding eye health. individual’s age and diabetic status.
Hudson explained that both of these issues were important so that the machines could be adjusted if needed to perform eye exams. In an area with a high rate of diabetes, vision tests are important because of the possibility of losing sight, according to Hudson.
Diabetes can cause swelling at the back of the eye, which can destroy sharp vision in that part of the eye over time. This can cause partial vision loss or blindness.
Hudson said the need for free eye exams and prescription eyeglasses stems in part from Imperial County’s high rate of diabetes, but also from low-income residents and limited resources in the Valley.
“Services are very limited here in the valley…plus a lot of people are on low incomes and then their experience when they go to a place to get their eye exams, their glasses are $2 or $300,” a- he declared. “So they did that, or someone in their family did that once in their life, and then they decided, ‘We’ll have to do without them because we can’t afford them. We can feed the children, pay the rent or buy glasses.'”
During the first year of the event, only 25 children were able to be screened and fitted with glasses. However, for the past year, Hudson and the Lions have been traveling to elementary schools to screen every student and provide parents with the results of those screenings; and offering the annual Vision Mission event to meet the needs of the community at large.
“It’s basically my Imperial Lions vision program and my mission in Imperial County,” he said.
Hudson said it took about 45 minutes to be examined, fitted with goggles and released. Each individual was seen by a licensed optometrist in California.
This year, the Lions have been geared up for the one-day event to scout individuals, let them choose from a set of three eyeglasses to find the style they like the most, and be properly outfitted for a pair of eyeglasses. The event normally takes place over two days, but due to COVID-19, similar events have seen low attendance in the region, according to Hudson.
Past events forced Hudson to pay out of pocket to provide the free eye care services. But thanks to the generosity of volunteers, doctors and organizations who donated money, Hudson has moved away from personal expenses. This year, the top contributor was Walmart, which donated $3,000 to the cause. Hudson was grateful to everyone who helped the Lions Mission Vision.
“Where there’s a need, there’s a Leo,” Hudson said.