Craig When the Colorado Optometric Association said no, Drs. Craig Eckroth and Ron Danner said yes.
Until 2005, the Optometric Association sponsored a statewide program offering eye exams and one pair of frames and lenses to schoolchildren whose parents couldn't afford them.
A general lack of interest in urban areas, however, prompted the association to discontinue the program, Eckroth said.
The news hit Moffat County hard.
"We really were on board here," Eckroth said.
So, he and Danner, his business partner at Eyecare Specialties, decided to continue the program themselves.
Each year, Eckroth and Danner provide eight vouchers apiece that provide eligible area elementary school students a free eye exam and discounted eyeglasses. Vouchers are given to area elementary schools, which then determine which students are eligible for the program based on results from routine in-school vision screenings.
The program is tailored specifically for students without Medicaid, insurance or other means of paying for eye care.
"We try to catch kids who fall through the cracks," Eckroth said.
Of the 16 vouchers he and Danner provide annually, Eckroth estimated nearly all of them are redeemed each year.
Eckroth said he thinks the program's success is measured by the effect it has on student's academic achievement.
"There's such a major part (of learning) that we acquire through the visual system," he said, adding that about 80 percent of what students learn in school comes through sight.
"You can't perform at a high level if you're not seeing clearly or comfortably," Eckroth said.
Helping students reach that goal comes with a price.
An eye exam and eyeglasses, complete with frames and lenses, usually cost at least $200, Eckroth said.
Through the voucher program, however, $20 buys needy students an eye exam and a new pair of glasses with lenses, if the child needs them.
The elementary eye care program will take a respite until school starts again in the fall.
However, a similar service at the clinic operates year-round.
InfantSEE, a nationwide program, offers free, one-time vision assessments to children ages 6 to 12 months. The service is open to any infant between those ages, Eckroth said.
Through the program, Eyecare Specialties offered the free assessments to 55 area children last year, he said.
To schedule an appointment through the InfantSEE program, call 824-3488.
Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org.