Buccaneers COO Eric Land welcomed officials from the Pasco and Sarasota County school districts to One Buc Place on Monday to share in the announcement of the GFF's donation
On Monday, the Glazer Family Foundation donated more than $50,000 worth of vision screening equipment to Pasco and Sarasota County schools, continuing what has become an annual effort
By the time the e-mail was forwarded to Sherri Reynolds, the original sender's name had been removed but the words had lost none of their impact.
Reynolds, the Health Department Supervisor for the Sarasota County School District, is used to e-mails and letters from parents, of course, but few of them prove as uplifting as this one did. Those who are motivated to write are usually looking for change.
This letter opened with the word "grateful" and concluded with the following signoff: "I know that you tend to get calls/e-mails when people are unhappy but I wanted to share some good news and pass on the kudos for a great job." In between, it became clear why this parent of a young Sarasota County student was so pleased with the school district.
The student in question had received vision screening at school and the test had indicated a possible problem. The student's parents received a letter from the school to that effect but didn't think much of it as the boy had passed a similar test before the school year started. After the school sent two more letters and followed with a phone call, the parents reconsidered and took their son to a doctor, who confirmed the results of the new test and suggested treatment. The doctor also passed on this sobering news: Had the problem not been corrected within the next few years, it would have led to permanent vision damage.
The parents "kudos" were indeed passed around to the parties involved – the school's nurse, the boy's teacher and the professionals who administered the test. And on Monday morning, Reynolds shared the letter with another group that gathered at One Buccaneer Place, headquarters of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The gathering was a press conference assembled by the Glazer Family Foundation and conducted by Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer Eric Land. Reynolds was in attendance, as was Pasco County Superintendent Heather Fiorentino and Sarasota County Executive Director of Pupil Services Mike McHugh.
All came to celebrate the Glazer Family Foundation's latest step in an ongoing effort to improve the lives and the health of Bay area children: The donation of more than $50,000 of vision screening equipment to the Pasco and Sarasota County school systems. The equipment wasn't just promised; it was in the room, along the wall and ready to be taken back to the those school districts for the start of the next season. The visiting school officials were thrilled by the donation.
"We truly appreciate this opportunity to partner with [the Bucs]," said Fiorentino. "When we have educational stakeholders…in the community that work with the school district, we know then students will be successful. Studies have proven that when children have better vision in the classroom that they are more successful academically."
The motivation for the Glazer Family Foundation's investment in vision screening equipment is simple. Like the boy whose parents were moved to e-mail their school, Buccaneers Owner/President Malcolm Glazer was helped by similar vision screening efforts as a child.
"[That] led the [Glazer] family, in creating the Glazer Family Foundation, to commit providing local schoolchildren with the opportunity to have vision problems identified early," said Land. "For those of us who have children, have had children or work with children, we know how desperately important it is to be able to identify vision challenges early in the school year. So many school systems don't have the opportunity to do that, and it makes it a tough year for those children. If, in any small way, the Glazer Family Foundation can contribute to speeding that process up, finding ways to identify some of these early problems for these young children, they can be a heck of a lot more successful in their school years."
The, well, vision of this particular GFF program is expanding. The foundation was established in 1999 and that very first year it partnered with Prevent Blindness Florida to fund vision screening for 2,700 preschool children in the Hillsborough County Headstart program. Last year, the Glazer Family Foundation began this current program by making a similarly large donation of equipment to the Hillsborough and Pinellas County school districts.
This year it's Pasco and Sarasota, and the program will continue annually, providing vision screening equipment to two more school districts each year.
"The foundation found it so successful [last year] that it was decided that we would expand our contribution this year to include Pasco and Sarasota county, and it's our hope that in the ensuing years we'll be able to expand it further within the footprint of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," said Land. "The Glazer Family Foundation is dedicated to assisting charitable and educational causes in the West Central Florida region."
Several of the Titmus i300 screening machines were on display in the press conference room on Monday, and a pair of visiting students from Sarasota County were the first in line to test them out. The Titmus i300 measures vision with unprecedented ease, speed and accuracy. The SureSight Vision Screener is a portable, lightweight machine that offers the first objective, accurate vision test that ensures reliable, early detection of refractive error, the primary vision disorder in children. The Good-Lite Model A translucent portable eye cabinet allows tests to be done in areas where the lighting conditions are not ideal and will allow screeners to set up and test more efficiently.
Advanced equipment such as this serves as a very real investment in the future of children throughout the Bay area.
"It's important that you have a level playing field," noted McHugh. "The kind of diagnostic work we're able to do with this kind of equipment for our students really helps us to level the playing field so all of our youngsters can be successful at school."
And, as Reynolds knows, the equipment can even save children from a lifetime of vision trouble. She has a letter from one very appreciative family to prove it, and Monday's donation by the Glazer Family Foundation should make many more Bay area families happy.
Said Reynolds in thanking Land, the Buccaneers and the foundation: "This generous donation to our county…does mean an awful lot to the children in our schools."