Kids in Hoopa wear protective shades after receiving eye exams. | All photos courtesy Angie Brown.

A team of ophthalmologists, lens-grinders and volunteers from around the world has set up shop on the Hoopa Valley High School campus this week to provide free eye exams and prescription glasses to hundreds of local residents, including roughly 1,000 school kids from the Hoopa Valley and surrounding communities.

The charitable clinic is being hosted by the nonprofit organization OneSight in collaboration with the Klamath Trinity Joint Unified School District, the Hoopa Valley Tribe and the K’ima:w Medical Center.

“It takes an incredible amount of work and planning to make this happen,” said Angie Brown, the district’s school nurse. With nine eye doctors onsite, the clinic provided exams to more than 230 adults on Monday, and all but eight or nine of them needed glasses, according to OneSight Clinic Program Manager Melissa Standridge. The vast majority of those glasses will be manufactured and provided free of charge right there at Hoopa High.

“We have a finish lab, so we can make probably about 80 percent of the glasses onsite,” Standridge said. For kids, who don’t require bifocals, the percentage is even higher — 90 percent to 95 percent can be made onsite.

OneSight works in collaboration with the American Indian organization Walking Shield to offer these clinics on tribal reservations across the country. The locations for these charitable events are selected based on financial need and access to care. In the case of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, there are no ophthalmologists working on the reservation. 

“We’re so rural that transportation to the coast, to get to the eye doctor or get glasses, is a hardship,” Brown said. This week’s clinic will provide eye exams and glasses to students from all seven schools in the Klamath Trinity Joint Unified School District along with students from Blue Lake, Weaverville, Burnt Ranch, Junction City, Happy Camp and Trinity High School.

“We really appreciate this group coming, and we’re hoping to catch some individuals who haven’t been able to seek health care,” Brown said. She noted that the ability to see well could prove life-changing for many of these kids. “In turn, their academics will benefit.”

This is the third time that OneSight has provided such a clinic in Hoopa. They first came in 2012 and then again in 2015. Sites are eligible for the clinic once every three years.