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Local Lions and Lioness Clubs help bring Hearing & Vision Program into 21st century

APRIL - Local Lions and Lioness Clubs are keeping a promise that was made by their predecessors to Helen Keller herself, nearly 90 years ago.

It was 1925 when Keller challenged the members of Lions Clubs to become Knights of the Blind. Since that time, Lions Clubs International has answered her challenge through ongoing support of vision and hearing-related programs. Today, thanks to a $500 donation from the East Jordan Lions and $250 from both the Elk Rapids Lions and the Ellsworth Lioness, that support now extends to the Health Department of Northwest Michigan's Hearing and Vision Screening Program for school-age children. Funds will be used to help the Health Department's hearing and vision screening technicians adopt a more efficient, effective and paperless system of capturing data while visiting schools across Northwest Michigan.

According to Suzette Daly, Family Health Supervisor for the Health Department, funding from the Michigan Department of Community Health does not cover the additional equipment.

"We provide hearing and vision screening for children throughout Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego Counties," Daly explained. "We're on the road, providing mobile screenings and communicating with parents. The generosity of the Lions and Lioness who chose to support us will enable us to use laptop computers, and to print referrals for parents immediately. We're extremely grateful for their support of this valuable screening program."

The Ellsworth Lioness Club chose to honor the memory of Theola Elzenga with its gift. "Theola was a member of the Ellsworth Lioness Club for more years than anyone can count," recalled Club member Donna Heeres. "She was committed to her community and the children in it." Heeres said Elzenga had been a 1st grade teacher at Ellsworth Schools, and her students were always near and dear to her heart. "The Lioness thought the Hearing and Vision Program would be a great way to honor her memory, and to continue her care of her kids."

Last year alone, the Health Department's Hearing and Vision Screening Program screened 1,574 preschool-age children, and 10,584 school-age children, at schools in Northwest Michigan. Screening technicians identified hearing and vision problems in 641 of those children, who were then referred to specialists for follow-up.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For more information, visit or call (800) 432-4121.