For four-year-old Harper Pecaut, a vision screen at the early age of 14 months saved her a life-long journey of developmental problems the cause of which could have been left unknown.
Before Pecaut knew she had vision problems, she was diagnosed with having a lazy eye, being far-sighted and crossed eyed with the help of a referral from the Jefferson City Host Lions Club.
Pecaut and her mother Brittany Baines, along with 30 other families, attended a follow-up screening session Monday hosted by PAT and the Lions Club, ensuring the children are on track with meeting their developmental milestones.
The service-based Lions Club promotes humanitarianism, and for the past 13 years has partnered with Parents As Teachers to provide free screening to children ages six months through six years.
"Just by looking at her, we would have never known she had a vision problem," Baines said. "If we wouldn't have known about her vision problems as early as we did, we wouldn't have been able to correct it."
Baines said Pecaut had surgery to correct the cross eye two weeks ago, but could have lost vision in one eye or had double vision had it not been detected so early.
Billy and Janice Bonnot, longtime Jefferson City Host Lions Club members and volunteers for KidSight, said every year they screen the vision of 2,500-3,000 children in Cole County.
"Children this age don't realize that they have vision problems," Billy said, "and its rewarding for us to catch them before they go to school."
Janice added: "One other reason we stay involved is because Helen Keller asked the Lions International Club to become knights for the blind and crusaders against darkness; so we try to include vision programs frequently in our club."
As a part of the PAT program, roughly 30 children had Monday appointments for screening of health, vision, hearing and developmental milestones.
"This program is for any family with a child who is not is school," PAT coordinator Katie Epema said. "These are helpful for families to see where their child is at, what things they do well and what things are still emerging skills for them."
While the Lions Club members and PAT were working with the babies, Burns Optical handled school-aged children at the Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson City.
Dr. Marc Franke, optometrist at Burns Optical, said by offering free vision screenings, they are giving students the chance to evolve into the capable people they are.
The same evening, 30 children in kindergarten and first grades were in line at the Railton Center to receive free screenings and to be fitted for glasses at no charge. For some members at the BCG, this may have been the first time they received a vision screening.
"For many people, eye exams and glasses are a part of regular health and wellness checkups," said Joy Ledbetter, social worker and family advocate at BGC. "But for some families, eye exams and glasses do not fit in their budget and are considered a luxury. With this opportunity from Burns Optical and Dr. Franke, some children may be seeing their teacher and classroom clearly for the first time.
"When a child does well, sees more clearly and feels better, the whole family does better."
Franke said the main thing he looks for during the screenings is any type of vision deficiencies to identify what the children can and cannot see.
"Research shows that children who have visual deficiencies are more likely to be poor students and are more likely to suffer in school, sports affecting their overall interaction and behavior with others," he said.
"By detecting and correcting these deficiencies early we'll be able to help them in their early developmental period of life."