In this blog post, I’d like to bring the spotlight to Kids Vision for Life, Orange County. I’ve had the privilege of working with Sam Hahn over the past five years. He is the Area Program Leader and dedicates his time to helping disadvantaged children throughout the geographically large and diverse Orange County. This is in addition to his full time job as an ophthalmologic technician.
One city that’s near and dear to my heart is Santa Ana. Many single parents have to work two jobs and almost every child gets a free lunch, otherwise they likely wouldn’t eat. This school district is large, enrolling 57,500 students.
Mr. Hahn has spearheaded efforts at the elementary schools themselves and has worked with Marshall B. Ketchum University (MBKU) to bring children on school buses to the University Eye Center for comprehensive eye exams. Kristine Huang, OD, has organized these Children’s Vision Days, which happen every other week. MBKU third and fourth year students get to examine kids in desperate need of help under the supervision of the optometric faculty.
All this energy is invested for one simple purpose: help children see. Vision is so much more than seeing that tiny 20/20 line. A child should have clear and comfortable vision. They should never have to think about seeing. More than half of learning happens through the eyes. Optometrists have the unique ability to take a small handheld instrument called a retinoscope and assess a child’s prescription without them ever saying a word or deciding which is better, 1 or 2. With this streak of light, we can dynamically see if a child is over focusing one second and then completely farsighted the next second. High amounts of astigmatism and lazy eye (amblyopia) are commonly found. The first step to rehabilitating a lazy eye is getting the child their full prescription.
Another great charity that Mr. Hahn also works with is the Illumination Foundation. This organization puts on similar events, but is focused on homeless folks in the community. Their mission statement is “breaking the cycle of homelessness.” Children and adults can easily find themselves homeless with the challenges and instability of work and health.
Being in the trenches with the screeners, volunteers, staff, and fellow optometrists has been extremely rewarding. I get to enjoy the kids’ sense of humor and learned that kids listen to music on YouTube now instead of the radio. Their personality and spunk really add an experience I otherwise would not have.