Thousands of kids see clearly for first time after getting free glasses

Published: Nov. 14, 2019 at 6:39 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Thousands of children in Central Virginia are now seeing clearly after being given free glasses.

Conexus for Children’s Vision has been screening kids for vision problems and providing free glasses, and they’re doing it in some of the biggest pockets of poverty in the community.

When 6-year-old Tay-shun Williams put his new glasses on the first time, his hand flew to his mouth, giggled, and smiled ear-to-ear.

This past school year, Conexus screened 54,408 children across the Commonwealth, referring 16,959 for additional eye exams; a 31.2% rate. The national average is 25%.

Here are the official numbers:

  • In Richmond Public Schools, Conexus screened 8,003 children, referring 2,829; a 35.3% rate
  • In Petersburg Public Schools, Conexus screened 1,394 children, referring 573; a 47.9% rate
  • In Chesterfield Public Schools, for 2018-2019 Conexus focused only on those schools with Communities in Schools programs, and we screened 1,958 children, referring 632; a 32.3% rate.
  • In Hopewell Public Schools, Conexus screened 1,149 children, referring 372; a 32% rate
  • In Colonial Heights Public Schools, Conexus screened 896 children, referring 277; a 32.5% rate

And according to Conexus, the eye screening failure rate in the region is much greater than the national average.

Na-Keisha White works as a Coordinator of School Health Services at Fairfield Court Elementary, one of the schools serviced by Conexus.

“If you cannot see, you cannot learn,” White said.

Not to mention, she points out the Conexus program makes eye site accessible not just financially, by providing free glasses, but that it also helps logistically, saving parents time. Conexus screens kids at school and delivers the glasses right there at school, as well.

Amar Anderson visited the Conexus bus a few weeks ago to get his vision tested and qualified for glasses. Once Anderson put them on he said it was a “big change.”

Tim Gresham, president at Conexus, says the mission is about eliminating barriers.

“I was speaking to one child this morning who said, ‘I can’t even see my breakfast very good when I eat it,’” said Gresham. “And he said, ‘I can’t see the board either.’ So, those are the kinds of students that we’re looking to find and identify and so today, we’ll get him some new glasses today and it should change his life.”

Research shows 80% of what a child learns is through a traditional classroom, and not seeing can also lead to behavioral disorders.

“Some kind of look around like they’re looking clearly for the first time,” said Gresham. "I’ve seen a student run and grab a chair and sit and read through it for the first time. "

Conexus is working to increase its service to our community every year. It gave out 3,500 pairs of glasses in RVA this year.

If you’d like to donate to the cause, click here.

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