Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 | 2 a.m.
For several months, Kevin Stewart struggled to see clearly.
At home, the 10-year-old would sit near the television to watch his favorite shows. At Deskin Elementary School, the fifth-grader would squint and crane his neck to see the whiteboard.
“If I’m in the middle of class, I can see all right,” Stewart said. “But if I’m in the back, I can’t see anything.”
Concerned about Stewart’s vision, a school nurse conducted an eye exam. Sure enough, Stewart failed.
The nurse told Stewart’s mother, Felicia Thompson, 28, that her son needed eyeglasses. But like many children in Las Vegas, Stewart isn’t covered under a vision insurance plan to offset the cost of eyeglasses, which can run a couple hundred dollars.
Enter OneSight, the nonprofit arm of America’s largest eyewear company, Luxottica.
For 15 years, OneSight has provided free eye care and eyeglasses to millions of uninsured children from low-income families through its mobile clinic and optical lab.
An estimated 1 in 4 children go undiagnosed for vision problems, said Dawn Yager, manager of OneSight’s mobile vision program. That’s concerning, because students can’t learn if they can’t see, she said.
“Eighty percent of what children learn is visual,” Yager said. “This program allows us to bring free eye care right to the school.”
This year, EyeLeen – a large, specially outfitted van – is traveling to 18 cities across the United States to administer free eye exams and manufacture glasses for more than 4,000 children. Last week, EyeLeen made a stop in Las Vegas.
For two days, EyeLeen was stationed outside of Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a charter school located near downtown Las Vegas.
More than a dozen optometrists from Luxottica subsidiaries Pearle Vision and Lenscrafters volunteered their time and expertise, prescreening children for glaucoma, conducting exams, issuing prescriptions and manufacturing glasses in the van. EyeLeen carries about 4,000 prefabricated lenses and frames that can be machined into eyeglasses in less than an hour.
For students needing stronger prescriptions – like Stewart – OneSight special-orders their glasses, which arrive several weeks later at their school.
“It’s awesome,” Thompson said. “I wish I had something like this growing up, because I needed glasses, too.”
On Thursday, Tina Berr, a dispensing optician, was waiting for a young boy named Marcellus to receive his first pair of glasses.
“This is the most amazing part,” Berr said, waiting for Marcellus to arrive in the Agassi charter school's health office.
Soon, Marcellus, with his curly brown hair and red-vested uniform, ran into the room, clearly excited.
“How does it look?” Berr asked after fitting Marcellus with his new glasses.
The boy turned to Berr, flashed a wide grin and raised two thumbs up.