Grant helps create access to vision care for Georgia students


Eight-year-old Rylee Tomlin enjoys going to school but often struggles to keep up. Seeing the words during her teacher’s lessons is a challenge, she said, which makes it difficult to concentrate.

“When I'm in school, it's hard to learn because I can't see,” Rylee said. “I usually sit in the back of the class and it makes it way harder. I think about that all the time in the middle of the class.”

With the help of Prevent Blindness Georgia (PBGA), Rylee is getting access to vision care to help bring her schoolwork into focus. Thanks to a $125,000 UnitedHealthcare grant, PBGA is able to provide free vision screenings, eye exams and prescription eyeglasses to local students in need.

The most recent event, held at Chicopee Woods Elementary School in Gainesville, GA, provided eye examinations for 200 children. Additionally, 55 kids, like Rylee, received free prescription eyeglasses to help address their vision issues.

Eighty percent of what a child learns is through their vision,” said Jill Thornton, the president and CEO of Prevent Blindness Georgia. “If they can’t see, they aren’t learning. So many children who are put in learning disability classes or behavior classes, they just need glasses.”

However, for some kids in the community, regular eye exams and vision care is considered a luxury, said Shavette Turner, vice president of children’s services for PBGA. This may put children at risk for uncorrected vision issues, which may impair child development and lead to other physical, cognitive or social development issues down the road. With the support of UnitedHealthcare, PBGA is working to help ensure kids, like Rylee, get the care they need. 

“The parents' response is they are just so grateful,” Jill said. “So many of them had no idea that their children couldn't see and have no financial means of taking them to a doctor or getting them their prescription eyeglasses.”

For kids like Rylee and her family, the organization’s support makes all the difference.

“I'm really excited because I'm going to get glasses and see better,” Rylee said. “I picked reddish brownish glasses that look really cute and I think I look really good.”

The UnitedHealthcare grant also helps PBGA provide free vision screenings, eye exams, prescription glasses and retinal imaging services to uninsured and low-income adults.

Click here to learn more about the organization and its vision programs for adults and children.