Focusing on Children’s Needs

The Detroit sun beats down on the loose gravel lot behind MacDowell Elementary. A sudden wave of record highs makes the ground shimmer in the shape two brightly colored buses and a tent. From un-airconditioned classrooms, children looked out the window wondering if what they are seeing is real. The intercom interrupts class to announce that guests from Florida and California have come to give away brand new books and eye exams.

There is less than a week left in the school, but this is the day Ryanne had been waiting for. She knew that is was coming, but it still felt like a mirage. In the middle of English Language Arts, her and her fifth grade class put down their pencils and pushed in their chairs. They left the vocabulary review and crosswords on their desks and went outside.

One by one, students exit through the double doors of the auditorium. Faint music with a pop techno beat first greets the students, then a cartoonish voice. They run toward the voice, toward the tent and starting cheering for Radio Disney. BC, the emcee of the D-Tour, gives away posters and rub on tattoos, then the students filter into two lines – one for the yellow bus and another for the blue. Ryanne enters the short line for the bigger blue bus first. The 45-foot custom built bus named SeeZar features two fully functional exam rooms. Ryanne has a seat and is quickly seen by an optometrist.

Ryanne has been having trouble in her classes. Headaches made it hard to focus. Books were hard to read. Recently, her glasses were stolen from her locker and she wasn’t eligible for new glasses for another year. The 2011/2012 Transitions/VSP Success in Sight Tour brought the resources to give the gift of healthy sight and brand new books.

The event, which was hosted by SVS Vision Care, made it possible for 70 students like Ryanne who are not able to afford glasses or eye exams. The American Optometric Association found that one in four children have an undetected vision problem that could impair learning. The services provided by Transition Lenses, VSP and SVS Vision make it possible for students in low income areas to stay competitive in the classroom. In addition to the eye exams, more than 2,000 books were given away to Ryanne and her schoolmates. The day was a success, but tomorrow’s event would top it.

Bess and SeeZar arrived early the next morning at Schultze Elementary. Temperatures promised to reach 95 degrees. And during the eight hour school day, more than 770 students would board Bess the Book Bus. SeeZar would screen 95 students and give away gift certificates to the additional 35 students who couldn’t be seen before the final bell rang.

The visit to Michigan marks the 10th state on the Transitions/VSP Success is in Sight Tour. We’ve traveled more than 5,000 miles and donated more than 18,000 books. The tour continues on with upcoming stops in Kansas City, KS and Greely, CO. Don’t forget to follow Bess the Book Bus on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to stay up to date on our travels.

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