Two Nebraska Lions Foundation programs teamed up to provide Special Olympics athletes with fast, free vision screenings at the May 2018 games.

According to the Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF), research shows that 68 percent of Special Olympics athletes haven’t had an eye exam in three years, 37 percent need glasses and 18 percent wear clinically incorrect glasses.

LCIF partnered with the Special Olympics in 2001 to create the Special Olympics-Lions Club International Opening Eyes program to fill the vision care needs of athletes. The program provides free vision screenings, corrective and protective eyewear and eye health tips at Special Olympics events around the world through the Opening Eyes program.

Nebraska’s Special Olympics is one of the events featuring Opening Eyes. This year at the games, equipment from the Nebraska Lions Foundation Mobile Screening Unit (MSU) was brought in to speed up the screening time of Opening Eyes, said Allen Darell, Driver-Operator-Manager of the Nebraska Lion’s MSU.

Darell said MSU shared its three Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screeners with Opening Eyes to improve the speed of the auto refractor station. The screeners have their own printer and router, so exam reports were printed immediately and handed off to onsite eye care professionals.

“The benefit and opportunity to share was completely obvious,” Darell said, “so the Mobile Screening Unit committee of the Nebraska Lions Foundation agreed to share the screening resources with Opening Eyes.”

Darell said the Nebraska Lions screened 137 athletes at the games and found 88, or 64 percent, would’ve been referred to a doctor at a school or public screening event.

Besides providing equipment to the Opening Eyes program, MSU, sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE), has been providing Nebraskans with vision, hearing and health screenings for more than 30 years.

“They use cutting edge technology and deliver great results for the state,” said Marjorie Maas, BCBSNE corporate social responsibility director. “We couldn’t be happier to support them.”