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Lions looking for kids' glasses

Area Lions Club members are taking their annual trip to Mexico to bring eyeglasses to those in need, but this year, they are looking at a slightly different group of clients.

Last year, the Lions met Friends of Mexico, a group of Midwestern and Canadian people in Mazatlan, Mexico, helping the needy people in the area. Friends of Mexico contacted the Lions about four months ago and asked if they would be interested in fitting glasses for students at five schools in the area, as well. The group will see an extra 950 students at the schools this year.

That means the Lions are looking for a lot of extra kids' glasses.

"Our biggest problem is student frames," Dr. Armand Radke said. Radke, an optometrist at MeritCare and a Lions member, helps organize the trip to Mexico every year.

Besides serving students at the schools, the Lions will continue to see the townspeople at a church and community center as they have in the past.

"It's an exercise in patience," Bruce Nelson said. "There was nothing that was ever done on time."

Nelson, an ophthalmologist in Detroit Lakes, has gone in past years, but can't make this trip.

Another change this year -- more efficiency. Instead of traveling across town throughout the day, the kids from the orphanages are going to be brought to the Lions wherever they are set up.

"We're trying to take everything the doctors have and apply it," said Dr. Jeff Leichter, a doctor of psychology at MeritCare.

He said seeing the poverty in parts of Mexico is sobering. For example, at one of their "clinics," a goat was wandering through the building.

Yet seeing how thankful the people are is rewarding. Last year, a woman was waiting in line to be fitted for glasses and the clinic closed before she could be seen. She was all right, she said, she'd come back next year when the Lions returned.

Radke said it was no big deal for her to wait a year for treatment, yet people here want to be seen the next day.

"It's very rewarding when you place glasses on their faces and they can see what they've been missing," Leichter said.

Twenty-three members of the Detroit Lakes and Frazee Lions clubs are going to Mazatlan March 11-18.

To donate eyeglasses, bring them to MeritCare clinic in Detroit Lakes.