Lions Clubs International helping children see

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Some South Mississippi children with vision troubles can see more clearly now. Their eyesight was evaluated at a special clinic on Monday, where they were given some high-tech help.

The project is a partnership between Lions Clubs International and a group called Sight Savers. They hosted a low vision clinic in Gulfport, evaluating 20 youngsters with eyesight problems, then providing them with some life-changing equipment.

At 12, Trae Henderson has an easy smile and a larger than life personality.

"I can see my eyes!" he exclaimed, as he looked into a special monitor.

He learned quickly how to operate the closed circuit TV magnifier.

"Make that bigger!" urged the instructor, as Trae manipulated the magnifier controls.

A specialty camera and computer screen combo can make images and letters appear 75 times larger.

"Will it help you with your reading?" the teacher asked.

"Yes ma'am," came the youngster's reply.

Trae was among the visually impaired children who received this device for free, thanks to Lions Clubs and Sight Saver.

"It's really cool.  It rocks!" said the happy young man.

"It's very gratifying to see that we're able to help kids like this. That's where it pays off, when you see it firsthand, just like it's happening now," said Howard Jenkins, representing Lions Clubs International.

"Is that something you think you would use?" the instructor asked Christopher Johnson.

"Yes," the 15-year-old quickly answered.

Johnson discovered the benefits of the magnifier right away. The Gulfport High student began having eyesight troubles when he was five years old.

"You have to move the lens on that really gently, okay?" the teacher instructed.

He was excited to learn he was taking the magnifier home.

"It's going to help me see everything clearly in the classrooms. It's going to help me through school," said Johnson.

"They'll have all this equipment at their home to use it on a daily basis and it makes a tremendous difference in their lives," said Jeff Haddox, president of Sight Savers.

"This is the zoom in, zoom out," said Benjamin Durham, as he explained the magnifier to a visitor.

After seeing what a tremendous difference the magnifier makes, Durham said it will enable him to focus on his school work.

"I can see and go back to school. And I can use other devices that will help me go back to school and I'll be able to read," said the Three Rivers Elementary school student.

The magnifier is really pretty basic technology, but it costs about $2500.  Many families can't afford that and insurance doesn't cover the cost.

That's where the Lions Clubs and Sight Savers came to the rescue, providing the devices free.

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