The event not only provides free vision screenings and glasses for children under age 12 but also free blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetic and glaucoma screening as well as free reading glasses for adults.
Patti Gruis, 9, excitedly waved to a friend while trying on glasses at the event Saturday.
Her mother, Melinda Sain of El Centro, said the event helps her family a lot since Medi-Cal changed the way it covers vision a couple years ago.
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“Especially being on a low income, trying to go to an eye doctor gets hard,” she said.
“There’s a lot of people not covered through insurance and fall through the gaps,” El Centro Host Lions Club President Ruben Arballo said. “They’re in the gap not covered and that’s where we try to help people.”
Imperial Valley Lions Medical Foundation President Larry Hudson estimated that between 500 and 600 people took advantage of the annual event Saturday.
He was inspired by a similar event held in San Diego years ago but was initially met with resistance as he sought out advice on how to bring one to the Valley.
“We have a need out here,” he said. “When people tell me I can’t do something, that’s not the thing to say to me.”
Refusing to take no for an answer, he continued asking around and gradually located equipment and enlisted ophthalmologists to help him with the screenings.
It costs between $6,000 and $7,000 to put on the event where everything is offered to community members for free.
Lions Club members from various towns including El Centro, Salton City and Imperial as well as roughly 50 volunteers from local high schools and hospitals came out to help.
Southwest High School junior Norma Montano volunteered her time at the event Saturday after her teacher told her about it. She wants to be a pharmacist and felt the event gave her good experience.
“I love it. It was really amazing to help people and be part of the community,” she said.
El Centro resident Rocio Murrieta came to the event for her first time Saturday with her four children.
“It helps a lot with money. I’m very happy and very excited,” she said. “It helps so much.”
Contact Hudson at 760-554-6520 for information on how to contribute to future events.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org