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Local Group Works to Diagnose Hearing and Vision Loss Early

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According to the World Health Organization, around 19 million children are visually impaired. The majority can have their sight easily corrected, if they can be diagnosed.

That's why at McGhee Elementary, a fun five minutes out of class could mean a lifelong impact.

"Look right at the lights here, honey," Mike Parker instructs a kindergarten student. The device in his hand can quickly scan the eyes, and identify six common issues.

"Astigmatism," is the diagnosis for one student, followed by four more issues. Each one is stamped on a sheet so the student can be retested and, if needed, given corrective lenses.

The local Lion's Club and Walla Walla Community College volunteers turned a McGhee classroom into an exam room for vison and hearing screenings.

"My ears were all squishy," one little girl said after pulling off the hearing test headphones.

For Lions Foundation employee Mike Parker, this is year 19 of meaningful work. "Last year we did a handful short of 33,000 kids," he says.

He and his wife travel all over Idaho and Washington - "Lopez Island, back over to Naches in Eastern Washington, Priest River and Priest Lake in Idaho," Parker lists off places he's still set to hit this month.

They're on the road 290 days out of the year.

Parker says, "That's all I can remember right now. I won't be home until the 24th of this month, I know that."

One thing he never forgets is the impact a new pair of glasses or hearing aids can make. Wednesday's screenings will allow children to get devices they need.

"When you see them the following year, they're completely different kids. Those kids have blossomed because now they're not struggling so much. They can read, they can hear, they know what's going on."

That's what's going to make the next month so hard.

"I'm going to miss it," Mike says, "I'm not going to miss the rigorous travel sometimes, but I'm going to miss the kids. I'm going to miss the kids terribly."

This will be Mike's last tour. When the medical on his DOT license expires next month, he's handing the reins over to someone else. "I'm the past," he says, "These kids are the future."

The Lion's Club visited four other Lewiston elementary schools in this week-long screening program.

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