IU School of Optometry Receives Grant from IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council

Thursday, June 4, 2015

“For me, it’s absolutely about breaking down barriers so that all children, regardless of circumstances, are able to receive appropriate vision care,” says IU School of Optometry Chief of Pediatrics, Dr. Don Lyon. 

Now, thanks to a grant from the Indiana University Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council, Dr. Lyon will be able to do just that.

In partnership with Monroe County Head Start, the IU School of Optometry has created a program called “Vision for the Future:  Eye Care Outreach for Low Income Preschoolers.”  This brand new program will provide high-quality eye care for low-income preschool-aged children (ages 3-5 years) in Monroe and surrounding counties.  Led by Dr. Don Lyon, doctors at the IU School of Optometry’s Atwater Eye Care Center will offer enhanced screenings and eye exams (including eye glass prescriptions when necessary) for low-income children in our community.  Additionally, the Vision for the Future program will offer high-quality, easily accessible educational opportunities for parents and families about the vital importance of sight to a child’s ability to succeed in the future.

“This program will be incredibly meaningful to our kids,” says Cheryl Killion, Health Services Coordinator for Monroe County Head Start.  “For preschool aged kids in Monroe County and surrounding areas – particularly those from low-income populations – there are very few options for accessing quality eye care.  While there are programs in place for infants and older school-aged children, 3-5 year olds are, unfortunately, a group that’s missed.  That’s why I’m so excited about this partnership with Dr. Lyon and the IU School of Optometry,” she says.

Enhanced screenings will take place at the Head Start facility on the west side of Bloomington, but if a child is in need of a complete exam, he/she will travel to the Atwater Eye Care Center (AECC) on the IU Bloomington campus.  Part of the funding received from the IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council will pay for travel vouchers so that families don’t have to worry about how they’re going to get their child to the clinic in that instance.  The vouchers may be used to pay for gasoline and/or bus fare. 

Costs of producing educational resources that will be distributed to the Head Start families in need will also be covered by funding received from the grant.  Dr. Lyon explains the importance of getting kids to the eye doctor early:  “14% of children receive comprehensive vision care before they enter kindergarten. One in four school-aged children have vision problems. Earlier detection is the best detection.”

Working with preschool-aged kids in Monroe County is just beginning of the Vision for the Future program, as Dr. Lyon and his team have their sights set on reaching out further to help children in other communities as the program grows in the future.

“We’re so excited about the possibilities associated with this program,” said Dr. Lyon, “and frankly, I can’t wait to get started.”

The grant award from the IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council was one of eleven total grants that were awarded this year. Administered by the IU Foundation, the grant program is funded with annual contributions by the WPC.

“Our intention is to fund impactful projects that provide ways for Indiana University to identify and address the health, educational, and cultural challenges facing our communities,” said Kay Ryan Booth, Chairwoman of the IU Women's Philanthropy Leadership Council.  “We’re thrilled to support such an innovative program and are confident that many area families will benefit from the new initiative.”

To learn more about the Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council at Indiana University, visit their website at http://women.iufoundation.iu.edu/