Aiming for ‘spot’ on vision

By Matt Harrelson

March 6, 2014

By Matt Harrelson

HAMLET — The Lions Clubs of Richmond County want to make sure the children of the county have good vision.

At the Hamlet Lions Club meeting held at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Hamlet Fairgrounds, District Governor of Southeastern North Carolina Vincent Schimmoller presented a way to make that happen.

He introduced the Spot Machine, a handheld, portable and self-controlled device that takes pictures of children’s pupils from three feet away and determines whether that child needs an eye exam or not.

Schimmoller said the camera is used primarily for children because adult pupils tend to become bigger as they get older, thus making it more difficult to snap a photo. The camera has a preloaded criteria installed for ages new born to 6 months, 6 months to one year, 1 to 3, 3 to 6 years and 6 to 20 years, he said.

The machine screens for vision issues such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and pupil abnormalities. After the picture is taken, a printout indicates any issues there might be.

“If their results fall into the acceptable range then nothing happens,” said Schimmoller. “But if their results fall out of that range then we’ll recommend an eye exam.”

That information would then be printed via a wireless printer that is in sync with the camera and given to the teacher or nurse for follow-up. If students and their families are unable to afford the eye exam, Schimmoller recommends contacting social services for the blind.

“We’ve tested about 1,600 students in Harnett County with 227 referrals,” said Schimmoller. “That’s about a 14 percent rate.”

The Lions Clubs in Richmond County would like to have a Spot Machine, and Hamlet President Jerry Lee Thomas thinks it’s a possibility.

“With it being so late in this school year, we’re looking to maybe start up next school year depending on funding,” said Thomas.

Schimmoller said the cost of the camera and wireless printer is $7,000.

Funding would have to come from multiple sources including the three Lions Clubs in Richmond County, said Thomas. He also said he had spoken to Pee Dee Electric about contributing as well as the Lions Club International Foundation which would match $3,500, or half the cost, once the other half is secured.

With grant cycles for Pee Dee Electric coming up this month and other grant cycles coming up in May, Thomas realizes funding must be a priority for the near future.

“With three clubs and the school system involved, I think we can come up with the funding,” said Thomas.