RSVP Volunteers Work to Save the Sight of Children

It’s amazing what a half-dozen RSVP volunteers can do.

Since 2008, RSVP members Cathy and Jim Glasheen, Jim and Millie Mauthe, Phyllis Klahn and Anne Tischauser have provided free, sight-saving vision screenings for more than 3,000 preschoolers in Outagamie County on behalf of Prevent Blindness Wisconsin. They have referred 105 children for complete eye exams.

Undetected vision problems can affect children’s readiness to learn, along with their physical ability and self-esteem.
Undetected vision problems can affect children’s readiness to learn, along with their physical ability and self-esteem.

As Sarah Campbell, the volunteer coordinator for Prevent Blindness noted, that is 105 children who potentially had a serious vision issue.

“Just last year, our volunteers screened 270 children at 15 different screenings,” she said. “Of those, seven of them were referred for a complete eye exam.”

Volunteers schedule screenings at Outagamie County preschools and childcare centers. After the screenings, the volunteers complete Results Brochures for each child who was screened. The brochures are sent home to parents, alerting them if their child passed or failed the screening. They also provide directions and resources for scheduling a complete eye exam if needed.

Campbell said children with vision problems often do not realize that the way they see the world is different than the way others see it. This makes vision screenings a critical service for catching and treating vision problems before they worsen or lead to permanent blindness.

“The earlier we can catch and treat a vision problem, the better the chance of a successful outcome for that child,” Campbell said. “By catching vision problems before a child enters elementary school, our volunteers are setting those children on the path for success both in school and in life.”

Jim Mauthe said detecting a child who needs to be evaluated further is one of the biggest rewards he experiences as a vision screener. His wife, Millie, said they sometimes find out that one of the children they referred needs glasses.

With a background is in pediatric nursing, Millie has a knack for making children feel comfortable.

“We were at a day care and a little 4-year-old boy didn’t want to cooperate,” she said. “He had a St. Norbert T-shirt on, so I mentioned that I had three sons who had shirts just like his. It’s taking the time, talking to them, not pressuring them and making a game of it.”

As team coordinator, Cathy Glasheen schedules the screenings with daycare centers and schools. She loves working with the children.

“We enjoy being with the little kids,” she said. “They are so honest and so cute.”

In 2014, the Vision Screening Team received the Governor’s Service Award in recognition of their efforts to help solve serious social problems and strengthen their community. It was presented in conjunction with the Corporation for National and Community Service through AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.

“The work of RSVP volunteers is truly remarkable,” Campbell said. Prevent Blindness Wisconsin is deeply grateful for our partnership with RSVP as we work together to save sight.”