It’s 2020, the year of perfect vision. About 40,000 Kentuckians get free vision screenings every year thanks to the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation. KLEF has a staff of three, and many volunteers, all of whom are dedicated to the nonprofit’s mission to provide vision services through education, detection, prevention, treatment and empowerment.
With nearly 350,000 Kentuckians who are uninsured and many more who are under-insured when it comes to vision, the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation’s services are in need more than ever.
– Lindy Lamkin
Lions Clubs International is the largest service organization in the world. In 1954, the Louisville Downtown Lions Club created the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation. Today, the 501(c)(3) organization serves people from across Kentucky through its mission.
Volunteers conduct free vision screenings of children from 6 months old to 6 years old through KLEF’s Kentucky KidSight Program. Since the program’s inception in 2003, more than 201,000 children have been screened. A new piece of high-tech equipment became available a few years ago and is now used to conduct KidSight screenings. It’s called the Spot Vision Screener and KLEF owns dozens of these handheld devices. From three feet away, it takes a picture of a child’s or adult’s eyes, connects to an on-site printer and instantly returns the six test results for nearsightedness, farsightedness, blurred vision, unequal refractive power, eye misalignment and unequal pupil size.
“It helps detect eye disorders or vision problems and is especially helpful in children who are too young to realize or communicate these problems,” said Lindy Lamkin, KLEF’s executive director. “If the results are out of range or there are concerns, we recommend the person go to an optometrist or ophthalmologist for a full eye exam.”
KLEF’s Vision Van program began in 2002 and provides onsite vision screening for older kids and adults, as well as information about eye health and eye safety. The van has been used across Kentucky and has been at the Kentucky State Fair each year. Any community group can request the Vision Van for their own health fairs. The van is equipped with several stations of vision screening equipment to test for signs of various ocular diseases including cataracts, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma and more. At the end of each screening, participants receive a brief report they can take to their eye doctor for follow-up care.
One of the ways KLEF focuses on vision treatment is by providing financial assistance for medically necessary eye surgery through the KLEF Patron Program. “We've served just shy of 400 in the last five years and many more before that,” Lamkin said. “With nearly 350,000 Kentuckians who are uninsured and many more who are under-insured when it comes to vision, the Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation's services are in need more than ever.”
Another treatment focus is the Holloran Trust Fund Program, established in 1967, which provides financial assistance for legally blind individuals in Metro Louisville and eight surrounding counties. A committee reviews applications for both the Patron Program and Holloran Trust Fund Program.
Empowerment is another aspect of KLEF’s mission. “We strive to empower people to make good decisions about their eye health. We encourage people to participate in vision screenings, and we recommend they complete routine eye exams,” Lamkin said.
Lamkin grew up in Louisville, earned a degree in management from Xavier University, and wound up in the nonprofit world with two other organizations before taking the executive director position at KLEF in March of 2019. She hit the ground running. “Our organization is at a point where progress and increased impact are happening,” she said. “That excites me.”
Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation offices are located in the Kentucky Lions Eye Center, which was built with the help of funds that were raised by Lions Clubs throughout Kentucky. The Lions Eye Center also houses the University of Louisville Department of Ophthalmology with whom the Foundation works closely to provide care to patients in need.
“We have amazing supporters within and outside of the Lions Club organization,” Lamkin said. “We are always trying to identify new volunteers and supporters, and it is more important now than ever before for KLEF to diversify our funding sources and invite the public to help us with sustainable funding to keep our organization strong into the future.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To volunteer with Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation or join the 20/20 Club and donate $20 a month, visit kylionseye.org.