IU School of Optometry receives donation to expand Vision for the Future program

Friday, February 9, 2018

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Indiana University School of Optometry has received a $145,000 donation from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust to expand the Vision for the Future–Indiana program.

The program was started in Monroe County in 2015 with a seed grant from the Indiana University Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council. Dr. Don W. Lyon, founder of Vision for the Future–Indiana, said, “The goal of this program is to allow all children to receive the vision care they deserve. This will ensure that undiagnosed vision problems do not limit their academic potential. By focusing on children in Head Start programs, we are trying to get them help before they are entering school. The thoughtful donation from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust will allow us to expand the program to Marion and Hamilton counties, where there is a large population of children in Head Start.”

“Nina Mason Pulliam experienced short-term blindness as a young woman, and her special concern for vision-related causes grew out of that experience,” said Carol Schilling, niece of Nina Pulliam and chair of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. “She would be thrilled to know, that through this grant, young children are benefiting from early diagnosis as well as early interventions.”

Vision for the Future–Indiana is continuing its work in Monroe County and expanding in adjacent Greene, Morgan, and Owen counties, thanks to a donation from the Smithville Charitable Foundation in 2016.

The program’s co-director Dr. Katie Connolly said, “Most people do not realize children need their first comprehensive eye exam at age six months, and then again at three and five years of age, and annually while they are in school. Most children only receive a vision screening at their pediatrician’s office or by the school nurse. Vision screening can only identify certain problems with their vision, and vision is much larger than simply seeing letters on an eye chart.”

Dr. Lyon’s hope is that through Vision for the Future–Indiana they will be able to partner Head Start centers with local optometrists, who will then serve as a resource on vision care and examine the children who are referred by the program. Alexandra Vayl, the program coordinator, will serve as the liaison between the Head Start centers and optometrists.

“Beyond providing direct vision care through the program, we want to change the culture of vision care for children by educating parents, teachers, and other professionals who work with these children, the true importance and impact vision care can have on the life of a child,” said Dr. Lyon.

“While Vision for the Future is starting in Indiana, our goal is to expand what we are learning to use across the globe where there is a definite need for pediatric vision care in many, many countries,” said Dr. Lyon, who is currently working on creating a medical mission trip to Rwanda.

For more information about the Vision for the Future–Indiana program, contact either Dr. Don Lyon at dwlyon@indiana.edu or 812-856-1964 or Alexandra Vayl at avayl@iu.edu or 317-278-1404.

The grant to the Indiana University School of Optometry represents one of 29 awarded to organizations in Indiana by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust during the second of two grant cycles this year. Since the Trust began its grant making in 1998, it has awarded more than $292 million to 963 organizations in its home states of Indiana and Arizona. For more information about the Trust and its programs, visit www.ninapulliamtrust.org.

The Indiana University School of Optometry prepares its students for careers in optometry, the ophthalmic industry, and vision science through teaching, research, and service. The school is home to the most comprehensive and advanced eye health education, research, and patient care available with an emphasis on outreach to the most vulnerable populations. For more information on the IU School of Optometry, visit www.optometry.iu.edu.