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Evan Brown & Grant Dabb

Joint Clinical Directors of Special Olympics-Lions Club International Opening Eyes

Optometrists Evan Brown and Grant Dabb’s first introduction to Special Olympics was, in their own words, “an eye opener”.

The pair travelled to the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA as Healthy Athletes® Screening Opening Eyes clinicians. They were among 100 optometrists from around the US and participating countries and screened hundreds of athletes each day for vision in trying 39˚C conditions.
Together with the support of Lions Club International, Evan and Grant established the Special Olympics–Lion Clubs International ‘Opening Eyes’ screening within the New Zealand Healthy Athletes® Screening programme.
At their first New Zealand screening at the 2001 National Summer Games in Auckland, Grant and Evan’s team screened more than 460 athletes in one day, and 762 athletes in total over the following three days, breaking Special Olympics [International]’s records for screening in the process. They were appalled to find that more than a third of athletes screened were wearing clinically incorrect eyewear or no eyewear at all.
The Special Olympics–Lion Clubs International ‘Opening Eyes’ screening is complex to run with some individual screening equipment items weighing more than 300kg. Much of the equipment they use specific to the needs of Special Olympics athletes comes from overseas along with frames donated by Safilo Group, which requires detailed ordering and processing to ensure they have everything they need and that it arrives on time. Grant and Evan’s attention to detail is second to none and they have used innovation and initiative to keep overheads down and reduce costs of the screening programme.
During the 2001 National Summer Games Grant and Evan pioneered a new method of delivering materials to the athletes. In a bid to minimise time delays for the athletes who needed follow-up care, the team devised a system whereby scripts for frames and spectacles were faxed to a local Essilor laboratory immediately following screening. The lab, in turn produced the glasses/lenses within 48 hours and couriered them back to the team for distribution at the Games (rather than weeks later through the post/other suppliers). This system has since been adopted at Special Olympics events internationally. Since 2001 more than 800 Special Olympic athletes have received free eyewear through the New Zealand Lions Club International Opening Eyes initiative.
There is no doubt that Grant and Evan, and their Special Olympics–Lion Clubs International ‘Opening Eyes’ team, have improved the lives of Special Olympics New Zealand athletes through vision screening.
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