Healthy Athletes opens eyes for a new athlete and his family

May 2, 2019 Blog, Featured

Last month at the Indoor Sport Tournament, optometry volunteers for the Lions Club International Opening Eyes clinic placed orders for 118 prescription glasses and 90 prescription sports goggles. One of those orders was for 13-year-old Isaac Newcomb of the Reedsburg Area Schools agency.

And perhaps no one was more surprised about the fact that Isaac was among these orders than Isaac’s dad, Matt. “We never expected Isaac to have any kind of vision issues. I thought he was maybe clowning around,” Matt said about Isaac’s difficulty with the vision test. After all, no one in Isaac’s family had ever had to wear glasses.

Isaac Newcomb with his new glasses

But sure enough, he was not playing a trick on his dad. Isaac was nearsighted and needed glasses. Thankfully, the pair decided to give Healthy Athletes and Opening Eyes a visit during a break in between Isaac’s basketball games during the state tournament. “If we hadn’t gone we probably never would have known,” Matt said.

The thing is, like a fair amount of athletes in Special Olympics, Isaac doesn’t talk much. Nor does he typically express health concerns to his parents. So it’s possible he may never have expressed any issues with his vision he perceived. But there’s also the possibility that he may not have even known he wasn’t seeing clearly. According to Opening Eyes clinical director Dr. Kellye Knueppel, that’s pretty common. “Over the years we have identified many athletes in need of glasses and/or further vision care who were not aware that they had a vision problem,” she said.

“I could tell when he hit the right lens because Isaac would just smile. – Isaac’s dad, Matt Newcomb

Opening Eyes improves athletes’ lives by optimizing their vision. Opening Eyes is led and driven by highly trained optometry volunteers like Dr. Knueppel who run these scans at our state-wide tournaments. One of the great features of the program is that athletes with vision problems receive a new pair of glasses for free in about eight weeks. Isaac’s parents were so eager to get Isaac in glasses they took his prescription and purchased new glasses for him to wear immediately. So Isaac should be receiving an additional pair of glasses through Opening Eyes before too long.  

While Isaac is still adjusting to life with glasses, Matt says things are going well. Although Isaac doesn’t wear them around the house much yet, he wears them all day at school. This means a lot, according to Matt. “If he didn’t like them at all, he wouldn’t wear them,” he said.

“That clinic is a godsend. That is so awesome that they do that.” – Matt Newcomb

Considering that Isaac has been an athlete for just a year now, they’re excited that they discovered Healthy Athletes and all the free screenings Special Olympics Wisconsin offers. It makes for just another thing to love about Special Olympics. In addition to basketball, Isaac so far has competed in track and bowling. He has loved every bit of Special Olympics the past year and he even gets ready for practices well before it’s time to go. According to Matt this is a telltale sign that Isaac really enjoys it. All of those practices he gets ready for early have paid off too. His Reedsburg Beavers Blue won a gold medal at the Indoor Sports Tournament. 

An athlete from the Janesville Area Special Olympics gets fitted for glasses at Opening Eyes during the 2019 Indoor Sports Tournament

Clearly the Newcomb family had a lot to smile about during the IST weekend. But perhaps the biggest smile came when the doctor testing out prescriptions on Isaac hit the right prescription during Opening Eyes. “I could tell when he hit the right lens because Isaac would just smile,” Matt said. “That clinic is a godsend. That is so awesome that they do that.”


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