CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — With an increased need, Conexus vision is relying on volunteer optometrists more than ever.

Conexus Vision is a 501(c)(3) organization that helps local children in our school see better.

In a normal year, Conexus Vision would see children in Kindergarten, 3rd, 7th and 10th grade. However, having missed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual learning, Conexus is seeing children in Kindergarten, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th grades.

Statewide Conexus has screened nearly 64,000 students and referred about 21,000 for a full eye exam which is a 32.5% screening fail, the national average is 25%.

In Chesterfield County alone, Conexus has been very busy with its mobile vision clinic. Screenings are up 205% and eye Exams are up 164%. In addition, students receiving glasses has gone up by 198%.

This has put a strain on Conexus’ services and staff and it is only through half of the school year.

Dr. Jeffrey Gould is an optometrist who lives in Northern Virginia and donates 2 days of the week to help Conexus with their mission.

“I saw what Conexus is about and what they do, going from school to school and taking care of kids,” he said. “I have always liked working with the kids. So, getting the chance to only see kids and make a big difference in them, so many kids that come through there, it kind of seemed like a good opportunity.”

When Dr. Gould goes into a classroom he can see 30 to 40 students in a day because the process is so streamlined. He said he is still very surprised by what he sees.

“We are seeing the ones that didn’t pass the screening. So, it is just really remarkable how many are coming in that aren’t seeing the board at school very well,” Dr. Gould said.

“I ask them that all of the time when kids come in – how are you getting by through the school day? How do you see the board? Well, I just try to move closer when I can or, when you see them trying to read the letters they are squinching as hard as they can to see stuff.”

Tameka Green, the school nurse at Walnut Hill Elementary, has been working with Conexus for seven years and the process is so easy.

“The bonus is everything is done right here in the school,” Green said. “The parents don’t have to take off from work, they are screened here, they need eyeglasses, all of that is done right here. It takes a load off of the parent but what it does for the children again is priceless.”

Dr. Gould encourages any optometrist with some time to help out Conexus,

“I would highly encourage anyone out there that is an optometrist that just got a day here and there that they don’t mind seeing extra patients, just going and seeing these kids,” he said. “It is nice working with kids all of the time and so you know you are making a big difference in their lives because they can’t see the board at school. It is kind of a no-brainer, really.”

8News asked Green what it would mean if Conexus didn’t have the help and could not provide their services to students across the area.

“I don’t even want to think about that not being available to our students because it is a blessing to have Conexus in our district and in our schools,” Green said.

Even if you aren’t an optometrist, you can change more lives by donating to the Gift of Light campaign. You can find more information about the program, as well as make a donation, online here.