Kids Day began as a means to provide vision care, but over the years it has evolved into much more.
“Now we offer complete health care services,” Eyeglass Factory owner Rick Feldman said. “These kids don’t usually have these services because their parents don’t have health insurance and they have to make a decision to pay the electricity bill or for glasses.“
Kids Day, hosted by the Santa Barbara Eyeglass Factory and supported by an array of nonprofits since 1994, showcases the year-round “Right to Sight” program, which donated more than 1,000 eye exams and pairs of glasses to children last year.
It will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Eyeglass Factory, 1 S. Milpas St., and will include free eye exams, free physicals courtesy of American Indian Health & Services, free flu shots courtesy of Walgreens, and entertainment. Last year, more than 400 people showed up in the pouring rain, arriving as early as 6 a.m., Feldman said. Maria Escareño will also be honored for her years of service with the Right to Sight program.
“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of kids,” Feldman said. “Because of the bureaucracy and rules, people don’t get the help that is available for them. We offer a very streamlined program designed to get people help with minimal paperwork and complication.”
Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International, a nonprofit that gives people in Third World countries treatment and sight through cataract surgery, will help administer eye exams.
The Clinic on Wheels, sponsored and staffed by American Indian Health & Services, will offer free physicals and complete health care through the Gateway Health Insurance program. Children often have a doctor’s appointment set up within a week, Feldman said.
Parents can also learn about proper nutrition and how to prevent diabetes, and children can receive dental check-ups and hearing screenings.
“The community does not really know how little the children’s needs are met,” said Debbie Pentland, a nurse who works at San Marcos High School, La Colina Junior High School and Open Alternative School. “There are great nonprofits all over, but the basic systems are not in place to meet their needs.”
Children, veterans, college students, homeless — anyone who needs care and can’t afford it will be taken care of, Feldman said.
“During Kids Day, you watch people who wait for hours and they aren’t miserable, they are thankful,” Pentland said. “That is telling you if we act on our morals, people will appreciate it. The issue is the ethics. We need to meet the needs of each individual and simplify the process.”
Other organizations involved in Kids Day include the Lions Sight & Hearing Center, the Milpas Community Association, Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice, Unity Shoppe, Transition House, Casa Esperanza, the Santa Barbara Police Department and the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
“This one day is the tip of iceberg, my hope is to expand the availability of these services to people who need them year-round,” Feldman said.