Sight Savers America, Birmingham Children’s Theatre and Focus First set stage for free “Wee See” vision screenings

 Press Conference:  Thursday, September 22, 10:15 a.m.

Birmingham Children’s Theatre

2130 Richard Arrington, Jr. Blvd. N., Birmingham, AL 35203

Birmingham, AL — A visionary collaboration among   Birmingham Children’s Theatre, Impact Alabama’s FocusFirst Initiative, and Sight Savers America begins offering free vision screenings to young attendees of “Wee Folks” series this fall.  The program will allow children aged 2-5 years the opportunity to receive free, non-invasive vision screenings from FocusFirst staff after select performances.  Follow-up examinations and treatment will be provided by Sight Savers America for all children found to have potential vision problems.  This innovative partnership is largely supported by a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.

Poor vision adversely affects tens of thousands of children in Alabama each year, leading to poor educational performance, behavioral problems, and low self esteem.  Although these vision problems are most effectively detected and corrected during the preschool years, many preschoolers throughout the state do not receive adequate vision screenings due to the difficulty of comprehensively reaching such a large number of children and the inability of children to recognize their own vision problems.  By providing free vision screenings after BCT’s live educational performances, the “Wee See” partnership will work toward a creative solution granting vision care to thousands of young children who would otherwise go without it.

FocusFirst, an initiative of the non-profit organization Impact Alabama, provides a cost-effective direct response to the vision care problems of children who live in urban and rural communities in Alabama. Since beginning service in 2004, over 2,100 colleges and universities throughout Alabama have participated with FocusFirst. These students have screened more than 123,000 children in all 67 counties across the state, with approximately 12% of the children failing the screenings and receiving free or subsidized follow-up care as necessary through Sight Savers America.  Impact Alabama is housed at the University of Alabama Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility.

Birmingham Children’s Theatre, one of the nation’s oldest and largest professional theatre companies for young audiences, produces high-quality, professional theatrical entertainment and curriculum-relevant arts education experiences for children and families. Since 1947 BCT’s mission has been to educate, enrich, and entertain through the magic of professional theatre. In the 2010-2011 season, Birmingham Children’s Theatre offered 275 in-house performances as the resident professional theatre of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, and 161 tour performances, reaching 570 K-12 schools and serving over 163,000 youth and families.

Sight Savers America provides comprehensive eye care for over 40,000 children each year through a network of child referral agencies, medical providers, and other eye care professionals. This children’s eye care network provides vision screenings, eye exams, eyeglasses, medications, surgeries, low vision assessments, vision aids and other therapeutic vision treatments, in addition to coordinating transportation, medical insurance, and follow-up care.

For more information about the Wee See collaboration, please contact Stephen Black at 205-936-9963.

For more information regarding upcoming Wee See screening days, ticket sales, and group scheduling, please visit the Birmingham Children’s Theatre website at www.bct123.org, or call a Birmingham Children’s Theatre School Group Coordinator at 205-458-8181.