HEHC grants $73,300 to support children’s vision projects

November 16, 2020
Community projects in 14 states received grants through the Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation program—learn more about each of these children’s vision initiatives.
Healthy Eyes Healthy Children (HEHC) Community Grant Program

Brandy Scombordi-Raghu, O.D., provides care to economically disadvantaged K-12 grade students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery and Bucks counties as part of the Looking Out for Kids program. Photo courtesy of Dr. Scombordi-Raghu.

Supporting community initiatives that promote eye health and vision care services for underserved children nationwide, the Healthy Eyes Healthy Children (HEHC) Community Grant Program awarded $73,300 to grassroots projects in more than a dozen states.

A program of Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation, HEHC provides up to $5,000 in ”seed” grants for the implementation of community-based solutions that ensure awareness of and access to crucial eye health and vision care services with special attention paid to children in underserved areas. Now in its fourth year, HEHC awarded 15 grants in 14 states during the 2020 cycle—all made possible through the generous support of founding sponsor Essilor Vision Foundation.

Carol Marusich, O.D., and Carol Record, O.D., Optometry Cares board members and HEHC committee co-chairs, are proud to say the children’s program keeps trending upward, not only in terms of the applications received each cycle but also the quality and reach of community programming.

In addition to children’s vision projects designed for interventions at schools and school districts, Dr. Marusich notes that 2020 HEHC applications also included initiatives through community health departments, clinics and children’s hospitals, as well as community foundations, local service organizations and community volunteer groups. These HEHC grants help programs overcome logistical concerns, such as purchasing diagnostic equipment, ensuring transportation to exam sites, creating educational materials and—new this year—obtaining necessary personal protective equipment.

“The $73,300 awarded this year to 15 local community projects address unique and diverse populations, including children with special needs, low vision, infants, preschoolers and the medically indigent, as well as a children’s vision education program for legislators,” Dr. Marusich says. “The impact on community awareness of children’s vision needs and the sustainability of local programs to meet those needs will benefit both the children and the doctors of optometry who are considering a project for their local community.”

Especially with the COVID-19 public health emergency precipitating so many practice restrictions and closures earlier this year, Dr. Record says it’s encouraging to see HEHC applications remain strong for the 2020 grant cycle.

Last year alone, the program supported 21,000 children’s eye exams and generated 10,900 eyeglasses while identifying 4,450 new eyeglass wearers,” Dr. Record notes. “As the HEHC program continues to grow, we would welcome additional sponsors in helping reach even more children.”

Learn more about each of the 15 recipients and how they plan to support children’s vision care in their communities:

Access to Comprehensive Vision Care for Low-Income Children (Illinois)

Provides comprehensive vision care for 200 low-income children at the Will County Community Health Center in Joliet, Illinois, while educating Chicago College of Optometry students about the health and social issues facing these children.

ACE Kern 20/20 School-based Vision Centers (California)

Provides underserved children, K-8 grade, with year-round, no-cost access to comprehensive eye exams and glasses at five, on-campus eye care clinics.

Beyond 2020 Vision Nebraska

Provides no-cost, comprehensive eye exams to first- and second-grade students in Beatrice Public Schools, and increases awareness and understanding by parents, educators and administrators of vision’s role in academic success with a special emphasis on providing eyewear at no cost to economically and academically challenged students.

Children’s Vision Issues and Parent Education PSA (New Mexico)

Produces and distributes television PSA, radio PSAs and printed, bilingual posters for all schools to educate parents statewide on the importance of yearly children’s eye exams.

EYE Can See (Ohio)

Provides comprehensive eye exams and glasses to infants and toddlers in low-income neighborhoods throughout Columbus, Ohio.

Eye Physical: Pediatric Community Eye Care (Louisiana)

Provides comprehensive, pediatric eye exams in underserved communities and increases awareness about eye care in the community.

H.B. 5297 Child Vision Bill Teacher & Parent Education Materials (Michigan)

Produces educational materials to be distributed among Michigan school district personnel following passage of H.B. 5297, the Children’s Vision Bill. These materials help inform educators and parents about the benefits of comprehensive eye exams for students identified as struggling readers or those with an Individual Education Plan.

iCare4Kids – Children’s Vision Program (Texas)

This San Antonio-based program ensures low-income and homeless children can access complete eye care, including no-cost, comprehensive eye exams, glasses and follow-up care, e.g., medical and surgical care as needed.

iCare4Kids (Missouri)

This mobile clinic program provides complete eye exams and glasses at no cost for low-income students in Clay and Platte county school districts.

In Her Vision (North Carolina)

Empowers cis- and transgendered girls and young women—often at risk for homelessness, sexual and domestic violence, and academic drop out—by providing no-cost eye exams and glasses.

Looking Out for Kids (Pennsylvania)

Provides no-cost screenings, comprehensive vision care and prescriptive lenses to economically disadvantaged K-12 grade students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery and Bucks counties.

Low Vision and Children Outreach: Community Education (California)

Provides education on pediatric vision impairment to various stakeholders in the community, helping generate referrals for comprehensive eye exams and pediatric low-vision exams in children.

READ: Resources, Education and Access for kids with Disabilities (Massachusetts)

Provides eye exams and glasses, as well as a series of educational books about eyes, to children with disabilities. The books help prepare kids with disabilities for eye exams, adjusting to new glasses and learning to wear eye patches.

See Kids See (Utah)

Screens local Park City School District students and provides comprehensive eye exams and glasses to underserved children who fail initial screening.

Vision Care for Underserved Children in Arizona

Expands a community partnership between Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry and The Neighborhood Christian Clinic (TNCC) in Phoenix, Arizona, to provide bimonthly, on-site clinics at TNCC for the provision of comprehensive vision care for approximately 300 children, ages 6 months to 18.

Support this and other Optometry Cares programs

Optometry Cares is committed to seeing its vision come to fruition, raising awareness about the importance of eye health, increasing access to vison care, and providing support to doctors of optometry and students in need. Help support the foundation’s mission and make a difference today—here’s how:

Consider making a tax-deductible donation to Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation to help support HEHC and other vision care initiatives.

“The possibilities are endless and the successes of so many distinctive projects over these past four years should inspire others to apply for 2021 HEHC grants and help address the unmet vision and eye health care needs of children in their communities,” Dr. Marusich says.

Read more about how HEHC and doctors of optometry continue making a difference in their communities and read more about the different projects nationwide.

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