Touchstone Story #20–Vision Screening

Lions clubs’ local efforts can change lives

Vision screening has been a part of Lions Clubs International’s mission since its founding and continues today. In 1962, the Lowell Lions Club in Massachusetts staffed concession booths at a fashion show to raise money to screen young children for amblyopia, also known as lazy eye. A condition that is easy to miss, it can lead to loss of vision over time. But if it’s caught at an early age, the chances of successful treatment greatly increase. The Lowell Lions Club raised more than $1,500 during the two-day event.

Decades later, vision screening continues to save children’s eyesight—and sometimes it saves lives. In 2013, kindergartener Brianna Leitten took part in a vision screening organized by the Bloomfield Lions Club in Bloomfield, New York.

After initial screening, Brianna was recommended for further testing. Though her parents hadn’t noticed anything wrong with her vision, Brianna’s eyesight was starting to get blurry by the time of her doctor’s appointment three weeks later. The doctor discovered that Brianna’s retina was completely detached in one eye due to a tumor. It was not known at the time whether the tumor was cancerous, Doctors suggested immediate surgery. But to remove the tumor would require removing the eye.

“It’s a difficult decision to make as a parent,” said Brianna’s father, Gerry. “Understanding you may be making the wrong decision if it’s not cancer.”

Brianna’s parents decided to go ahead with the surgery, and further tests revealed that they made the right decision. The tumor was cancerous, but it was removed before the cancer spread to other parts of Brianna’s body.

The Lions club continued to support the Leitten family throughout the procedure and Brianna’s recovery and helped pay for a prosthetic eye for the courageous and resilient kindergartener.

“Her biggest concern was to get back to school to learn her kindergarten song for graduation,” said Brianna’s mother, Dorie.

The Leittens, in turn, became avid supporters of Lions Clubs International and vision screening efforts for other children. In 2015, Brianna and her parents attended the annual Lions Day at the United Nations in New York and the Lions Clubs International Convention in Hawaii, telling their story and hoping to inspire more Lions clubs to conduct vision screenings.

Vision screening is a simple, fast procedure that can make a big difference in children’s lives. Lions Clubs International’s KidSight program screens more than 500,000 children each year in the United States, and vision screening is a long-standing Lions tradition that saves sight and saves lives.

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. Don’t forget to share these stories with new members so they gain an understanding of Lions history!