SMITHS GROVE -- Peering through the perceptive lens of a hand-held spot vision screener, Deon Benson instructed students at North Warren Elementary School on Friday to sit still and open their eyes wide.

As the lights dimmed behind the curtain on stage in the school's auditorium, the lens on the camera-like device flashed kaleidoscopic colors.

Within seconds, an image of a student's eyes appeared on the device's screen. The device rendered its judgment with the words "Complete Eye Exam Recommended."

At a nearby table, a printer issued a vision screener summary for each student to take to his or her parents and, if necessary, an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Nearly 170 students had signed up to participate in a free vision screening at North Warren Elementary School on Friday. It was the first such KidSight Eye Screening conducted by the Smiths Grove Lions Club.

"We're taking care of our part of the county," said Benson, a local dentist in Smiths Grove and one of the club's members.

After recently investing in a Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screener and sending six people to Louisville for training to use it, the club's members wanted to put it to good use. Members also offered screenings to students at Oakland Elementary School.

After students lined up backstage in the school's auditorium and stepped forward for their screening, each of them was given a printout that summarized potential conditions such as an astigmatism or myopia.

The result isn't meant to replace a complete eye examination, but for many students it can be a starting point to seek further medical care.

"What this does is it alerts parents of any issues that may be happening," said Ben Kirtley, the family resource coordinator at North Warren Elementary School.

"It's a huge benefit to our school," Kirtley said, calling the response from students "overwhelming." Students had to get permission from their parents to participate.

"We're very appreciative to the Lions Club. This is a special event and it's been an overwhelming success," Kirtley said.

Kevin Jackson, a member of the district's school board who represents northern Warren County, was also among the volunteers. Although not a member himself, Jackson said his father was a member of the Smiths Grove Lions Club for more than 30 years.

"I know how many good things that this organization has done," he said. "Anytime we can bring civic organizations together with the school system, it's a win-win situation."

Jackson noted that vision is one of the Lions Club's foremost causes and said he was "tickled to death" when he learned it would be assisting students with screenings.

"Vision and learning kind of go hand in hand," Jackson said. "If you can't see what's on the board or you can't see well to read, then it's an obstacle that students have to overcome."

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