Nonprofit sets sights on providing vision care

STRUTHERS – An 8-year-old community outreach organization is trying to remove obstacles so that a greater number of Mahoning Valley children and adults will see their way clearer without stumbling then falling through unnecessary cracks.

“Schools often get identified for (students with vision) problems, but 66% of kids screened at schools never make it to the eye doctor,” Dr. Kayla Tucker observed.

That’s where Sight for All United, 966 Fifth St., comes into view.

To address this gaping disparity, Sight for All United, a nonprofit organization that debuted in 2016, established a sophisticated, state-of-the-art in-school mobile vision van in 2022 to offer eye exams and glasses for students in area schools, Tucker, an optometrist and Sight for All’s research coordinator and medical program director, noted.

A major goal is to screen and correct vision problems in young people before they lead to glaucoma and other serious eye conditions, or possible blindness.

Between 2017 and 2023, the organization, which covers Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, saw about 3,500 children who received in-school exams and glasses, she said.

In addition, Sight for All has its focus on identifying low vision resources, medical referrals based on the results of the exams and improving screening procedures, according to its website. Often, the organization will refer people to eye doctors, with the hope a positive relationship will develop between them.

“Everyone should have a relationship with a community doctor,” Tucker said, adding that her organization also tries to find a doctor who is in the child’s ZIP code.

Part of the gap in services is because many children and families, especially in more urban settings, deal with daily hardships and struggles, lack transportation or fear their insurance won’t cover costs, Dr. Sergul Erzurum, ophthalmologist and Sight for All’s board president, noted.

Compounding the situation is that some young people are unaware they have vision problems. As a result, the parents assume their children are fine, so they’re not in a position to address such problems sooner, Erzurum said.

Every $1 Sight for All raises provides $5 in medical services, she added.

An additional challenge is that many people with vision problems simply don’t know what resources are available, Leah Sakacs, Sight for All’s executive director, said. Often, a person will come in to address a given need but discover a multitude of needs, she added.

Another key tenet of the organization’s mission is to better educate parents regarding understanding their children’s vision problems.

In addition, Sight for All United is one of several entities that have a partnership with the Campbell School District. Recently, Gov. Mike DeWine came to the district’s Community Literacy Workforce and Cultural Center on state Route 616 to announce a $10.5 million grant to build a 55,000-square-foot health and community center near the CLWCC.

The facility will be one of 28 projects under the umbrella of $64.2 million in grants for 20 Appalachian counties, many in southeast Ohio.

Sight for All United hopes to use its portion of the funds to build a sight and education center for “people with low vision so they don’t have to go to Cleveland or Pittsburgh,” Tucker said.

Such a facility would be ideal for creating a program aimed at helping a greater number of people in the community and beyond, she continued.

Last year, the organization was awarded a federal grant to expand in-school eye exams, as well as offer what’s said to be the state’s first adult telehealth vision van.

Also, the organization will be hosting its Mad Hatter Tea Party, a community outreach event set for 1 to 4 p.m. April 20 at the Medici Museum of Art, 9350 E. Market St., Warren. Tickets are $40 per person.

If you go …

WHAT: Sight for All United community outreach event, Mad Hatter Tea party.

WHEN: 1 to 4 p.m. April 20.

WHERE: Medici Museum of Art, 9350 E. Market St., Warren.

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $40 per person.

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