The finish line was in clear sight for 2,500 athletes who competed in the Asia Pacific Special Olympics in Newcastle last week thanks to Lions eye health screening checks.
The ‘Opening Eyes’ program is a Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) initiative that provides Special Olympic athletes with prescription eyewear, sunglasses and sports goggles.
Since 2001, Special Olympics and the LCIF have screened more than 325,000 Special Olympics athletes, and have provided more than 125,000 athletes with prescription eyewear.
Lions Club International President Barry Palmer said that during this time the Foundation has given more than $15 million globally to the Opening Eyes program.
The wonderful thing about the program is that for some athletes competing in Newcastle this will be the first time they will be able to see their friends and families cheering them on from the stands,” Mr Palmer said.
Amongst special Olympics athletes 68 percent have not had an eye examination in three years, 37 percent are in need of eyeglasses, and 18 percent wear clinically incorrect glasses. Athletes receive diagnoses for vision-related problems, corrective and protective eyewear, and are taught how to take better care of their eyes.
Special Olympics Australia Sports and Operations Coordinator Lennon White said that many athletes come from countries with little in the way of eye health checks. In Newcastle more than 70 athletes were prescribed corrective eyewear with one person found to have glaucoma that required urgent treatment.