Lions screen kids’ hearing, vision

Oak Harbor Lions Club member Jim Ryan helps Crescent Harbor Elementary School kindergarten student Kelsey Bull into headphones for a hearing test. - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor Lions Club member Jim Ryan helps Crescent Harbor Elementary School kindergarten student Kelsey Bull into headphones for a hearing test.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

Hundreds of elementary school students streamed into the Lions Health Screening Unit for hearing and vision screenings this week, a relief for the three school nurses serving Oak Harbor School District.

The screening unit is based in Seattle and travels around Washington and Idaho doing health screenings for schools and the general public.

Mike Parker, a member of the Northwest Lions Foundation of Seattle, drives the unit. He’s on the road 270 days out of the year and drove the unit 32,000 miles in the last year.

Lions screened students in four elementary schools from Jan. 3 to 6, with each school taking the entire school day.

State law requires that kindergarten through third-grade, fifth- and seventh-grade students be screened for vision and hearing.

This is the first year the unit has screened at Oak Harbor schools. A school nurse requested that the unit screen students when she saw the van doing a public screening in Oak Harbor.

Usually, the three school nurses spend months screening the students, in addition to caring for more than 5,600 students in the school district.

“It’s always important. It saves the school a lot of time and takes a load off the nurses,” said Willis Jacobs, Oak Harbor Lions Club chairman for the event.

The Oak Harbor Lions Club members volunteered their time to do the screenings, as well as $150 per school to pay for the unit.

Funding for the unit came from the public, Jacobs said.

“The community supports us by buying our fruit and Christmas tree sales. That’s where we get the money for this,” Jacobs said.

Six Lions manned the screening stations for each shift, helping students put on headphones to test their hearing and pointing to shapes to test their eyesight. Some Lions volunteered for multiple shifts.

During a break between students, Oak Harbor School District nurse Robbin White celebrated the Lions’ work. She has already devoted countless hours to screening seventh-grade students at North Whidbey and Oak Harbor middle schools.

“It’s such a huge expense they’re supporting our schools with. They were very, very supportive of us,” White said of the Oak Harbor Lions Club.

Usually, White spends two days per school doing the screenings herself, which takes away from her normal duties. Since the screenings are so important, she said she’s grateful the Lions are providing relief.

“It’s huge how much that impacts students’ learning if they can’t see,” White said.

Lion David DeMarsh said he was surprised some students had such poor vision.

“So I’m thinking we can do something about this. Get the kid glasses and maybe his grades will improve,” DeMarsh said.

“I was surprised yesterday at how many kids couldn’t see. I had one that could just read the top line. If they can’t see, how are they doing in school?” said Lion Sharon Ryan.

If students fail the hearing or sight tests, the school nurse will re-screen the student later to make sure there was no extraneous reason for the failure, such as a cold that affects hearing. If the student fails again, the nurse will refer the student to a professional.

If professionals deem that the child needs glasses and the family absolutely can’t afford them, the student will be referred to the Lions Club, which will fund the glasses, according to Ryan.

Jacobs has already turned in the paperwork to reserve the unit for next year, which is important since the unit is in high demand.

“I was almost sick by how many denial letters we had to send out because we can’t cover them all,” Parker said.

Lion Porter Baldridge said he hopes the unit will come back next year.

“It’s a good project,” he added.

The Lions hold annual public screenings, usually at Ace Hardware in Oak Harbor, for diabetes, glaucoma, blood pressure and vision. This year, the club has taken up diabetes awareness because diabetes is one cause of blindness.

“We would like people to get checked for diabetes,” Jacobs said.

For information about the screenings, call Willis Jacobs at 679-4306.


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