How It All Began

The Northern Virginia Lions Mobile Sight & Hearing Screening Units provide sight and hearing screenings to the men, women, and children of Northern Virginia. Here is a brief history of this Lions activity.

Prior to 1976, there was no organized, systematic program within Lions District 24-A for conducting vision, glaucoma, or hearing screenings. Some Lions Clubs occasionally conducted glaucoma screenings whenever they could arrange for the services of an ophthalmologist, and some occasionally conducted vision screenings with either purchased or borrowed vision screeners. Vision and glaucoma screenings for the District as a whole were sporadic while hearing screening within the District was virtually non-existent. Recognizing these problems in conducting a major Lions program--the early detection of sight and hearing deficiencies--a committee of Lions was appointed to study these problems. The committee was tasked to determine the economic feasibility of developing a Mobile Screening Unit program to conduct both sight and hearing screenings on a continuing basis; to measure its potential benefits and estimate its costs. The committee met on numerous occasions with professional hearing and vision specialists and other groups.

The committee's recommendations to approve and implement the program were approved in May 1976 and the mobile screening vehicle (a 27-foot Winnebago Motor Home), was provided at dealer's cost by Koons Pontiac in Manassas VA. As contributions were solicited and received from the clubs, the final payment was made for the van and the vision, hearing, glaucoma, and other support equipment were purchased and installed. The program became operational in November 1976.

During its initial period of operation (November 1976 through June 1977) 5,180 people were screened in the van by 25 Lions Clubs. On April 5, 1978, the Commonwealth of Virginia incorporated the program as the "Sight and Hearing Mobile Screening Unit, Lions of Virginia, District 24-A, Inc." a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. In May 1984, the Spotsylvania Lions Club sponsored the van at the Spotsylvania Mall in Fredericksburg, VA and the 100,000th person was screened. Due to high demand, a second Van was purchased in 1989.

Several replacement Vans have been purchased over the years with the latest having been acquired in April 2013. After the mergers of the 6 Virginia Lions Districts into 3 Districts, the name of the organization was changed to reflect the mission of serving the Lions and communities of Northern Virginia.  During the 44 years of service (1976-2020) over 1 million screenings have been been conducted using the two Lions Mobile Sight and Hearing Vans. The services offered have expanded to include the use of portable screening equipment in rooms provided by the customer rather than using the Vans. Much of this screening is done at local schools at minimal cost to the schools and no cost to the parents. Your generous contributions will enable the Lions of Northern Virginia to continue providing this valuable service.

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