The Glazer Family Foundation Vision Mobile continued its tour of the Tampa Bay area this week, visiting two more schools to provide vision exams for students who struggle to see clearly.
On Monday, the mobile vision unit traveled to Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Tampa, where more than four dozen students had the opportunity to board the kid-friendly bus and receive eye exams.
The Glazer Family Foundation Vision Mobile is the signature component of the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Program, a health initiative to identify and correct vision problems for local schoolchildren who would otherwise not have the opportunity for such services. This winter and spring, the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Program is supporting 12 Title I schools throughout Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties by providing free vision screenings and prescription glasses to students in need.
Recently, all 532 students at Booker T. Washington had their eyes examined by equipment provided by the Glazer Family Foundation. After 52 students exhibited a need for further eye testing, the Vision Mobile visited the school to provide more extensive exams. Forty-seven students were recommended for glasses, and each had the chance to pick out their very own frames.
The arrival of the Vision Mobile at a local school is an exciting moment for everyone, no matter how good their eyesight is.
"As you can see, we have to stop some kids who don't need glasses from getting outside," said Veronica Jacques, the school's social worker. "Once they see the bus out there, all of our kids want to be out there. It's a fun day to them. I love the way that the Glazer Family Foundation does it. It's not like, 'Oh, you're going to the doctor to get glasses.' They actually want to go out there. At first, when we had to do the pre-screening, it's hard to get them out of class with permission slips, etc. When we say the Bucs are coming out to give you free glasses, they get really excited."
Along with having their eyes examined, students enjoyed the Buccaneer-themed bus, which is decorated to mimic iconic team settings such as Raymond James Stadium and the Buccaneers' locker room. While waiting their turn, students also had the chance to try on an official Vincent Jackson jersey and helmet, or learn a cheer from the Buccaneers Cheerleaders, using official team pom-pons. Members of the Bucs' staff even helped the kids run through a series of youth football drills.
The excitement continued on Tuesday and Wednesday, when the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Mobile traveled to Fairmont Park Elementary School in Pinellas County to examine nearly 70 students. Originally, all 570 children at Fairmont Park had their eyes screened in preparation for the Vision Mobile visit. This week, 50 students were fitted for glasses, which they will receive in the coming weeks.
"We think that it's phenomenal that [the Foundation] brought these resources to the school to make sure that every student has had an opportunity to have a proper eye exam and get the glasses," said Pinellas County Schools Nurse Educator Jennifer Holden. "Sometimes, the parents with the best intentions don't have the transportation to get the students to the appointment and then go get the glasses. Having the resources come through school, with minimal input from the parents, while still being able to get the children their glasses is phenomenal."
In the 2013-14 school year, the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Program has already reached more than 6,400 Tampa Bay students, providing this much-needed service that not only detects, but helps correct serious vision problems in those who might not otherwise afford such care.
"Vision screening is probably the best tool that we as school nurses can use to make sure students can see," added Holden. "If we have students in the classroom from day one that can't see, they are already behind the students who can see. As an educational aid, vision is probably one of the most important things."