TAMPA, Fla. – When children with uncorrected vision problems begin school, they experience serious learning disadvantages that can have a lifelong impact, yet only 40 percent of children entering kindergarten have received testing for vision issues. The Vinik Family Foundation has donated $50,000 to the Lions Eye Institute for Transplant & Research Foundation to support its Vision Health Program, a new initiative to make vision care accessible for Head Start students attending Title I schools in Hillsborough County.
“When we heard the impact that undetected eye diseases can have on a child’s academic and life success, we were moved to do something about it,” said Penny Vinik, co-founder, and director of the Vinik Family Foundation. “We love our Tampa Bay community, and these children are our future; they deserve every chance of success without barriers like preventable blindness.”
As the world’s largest nonprofit eye bank and ocular research center, Lions Eye Institute is leading the worldwide fight against blinding eye disease from its headquarters in Tampa Bay. The Foundation’s Vision Health Program utilizes the latest technologies to help identify any vision issues in children, such as amblyopia and strabismus, which can cause permanent blindness if not identified by the age of eight.
“This gift from the Vinik Family Foundation will have a profound impact on the lives of 3-4 year-old children living with undiagnosed vision issues,” said JL Bielon, Executive Director of the Lions Eye Institute Foundation. “Undiagnosed vision issues can be associated with poor academic performance, juvenile incarceration, and behavioral issues, and oftentimes are easily treated.”
Since 1997 the Vinik Family Foundation has donated over $75 million to non-profits working in the areas of education, human services, healthcare, and the arts.
The Lions Eye Institute Foundation’s Vision Health Program launched in October 2020. To date the program has conducted screenings for 436 children in 39 classrooms across 28 schools in Hillsborough County – all at no cost to the students.
About the Vinik Family Foundation
Vinik Family Foundation is a private foundation created and managed by Jeff and Penny Vinik. Founded in 1997, VFF has donated over $75 million to non-profits working in the areas of education, human services, healthcare, and the arts.
About Lions Eye Institute for Transplant & Research (LEITR)
Lions Eye Institute for Transplant & Research is a nonprofit organization that is a global resource for providing the gift of sight through research, vision screenings, tissue distribution, and tissue recovery services. Our mission is to set new standards in eye banking, tissue recovery, and ocular research, that transform and improve the lives of our patients, honor our tissue donors and their families and provide enhanced services for our surgeon partners. LEITR’s Eye Bank, located in Tampa, Florida, is one of the largest combined eye bank and ocular research centers in the world. Since its inception 48 years ago, LEITR has brought the “Gift of Sight” to more than 150,000 men, women, and children worldwide. For more information visit www.LionsEyeInstitute.org.