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Heart of a Lion

Lions foundation honors man for sight screening work


Readers' note: This story was updated to reflect the correct vision ratio for the 8-year-old girl Wally Anderson refers to in the second paragraph. It also clarifies that the Oregon Lions Club Sight and Hearing Foundation is on par to screen 110,000 children by Dec. 31.

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Wally Anderson, event planner with the Lions Club Sight and Hearing Foundation, uses a Welch Allyn Spot diagnostic device to screen the eyes of a Raleigh Park Elementary School student on Wednesday morning.    If Wally Anderson harbored any doubts about committing to his post-retirement role with the Lions Club Sight and Hearing Foundation, they were quelled by an experience in 2008 involving an 8-year-old girl.

“This little girl came through the (eye exam) trailer with 20/80 vision in her right eye and 20/100 vision in her left eye," he recalled. “I asked if she’d ever been to an eye doctor to get eyeglasses. She said, ‘I know I need them. I keep running into things and falling down.’ That just broke my heart. I knew how we could help this child.

“It solidified my being a Lion,” he added. “It made it all worthwhile.”

Anderson’s peers at the foundation recognized his dedication by inducting him into the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation Hall of Fame. The longtime Beaverton resident was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday, Oct. 4, at the organization’s annual gala at the Tualatin Country Club. Anderson, 75, was inducted with Tom Bessonette of Redmond and posthumous recipient William Page Douglas of Lake Grove, joining 13 previous Lions Club members selected by the hall, which seeks to “honor, memorialize and encourage outstanding leadership and service” on behalf of the foundation’s mission to “screen, treat, save and restore” sight and hearing for those in need.

For the past 12-and-a-half years, Anderson, who retired as a long-haul truck driver for Albina Fuel Co. in 2000, has traveled more than 10,000 miles throughout the state each year to screen the sight and hearing of thousands of schoolchildren.

While honored to be recognized by the foundation, the unassuming grandfather clearly is not hitting the road for the glory of it.

“I don’t believe I do any more than anybody else,” he said. “I do my job, and I guess I’ve done it long enough that they wanted to say ‘Thank you.’ It’s a great honor, and it’s very humbling to be in the presence of people who’ve done so much.”

Mara Steen, the foundation’s mobile health screening program manager and Anderson’s supervisor of four years, tends to disagree.

“Wally has so much passion for what he does,” she said. “He shares with us his experiences in schools and tells us when he’s about to get teary-eyed. His heart is so committed to what we do. Vulnerable kids have such a place in his heart.”

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Wally Anderson, event manager with the Lions Club Sight and Hearing Foundation, shows off the vehicle he drives around Oregon to screen vision and hearing abilities of schoolchildren and others. Visionary technology

A longtime volunteer for the foundation, Anderson had no idea his retirement from 50 years of trucking would lead him away from his bowling league to such significant highway time in his golden years.

“I was here at the foundation one day, sorting eyeglasses,” he recalled. “The boss walked through the room and said, ‘I understand you’re an ex-truck driver,’ and it went downhill from there. I’ve been here ever since.”

Some aspects of his vision- and hearing-screening role have gotten easier from the days when he hauled a trailer around the state with alphabetical eye charts and documented results by hand.

Since last fall, thanks to Pediavision Spot, a $10,000 hand-held device made by Welch Allen, Anderson can test a child for 13 vision-related problems in a matter of seconds. Through its 20/20 capital campaign, the foundation raised more than $615,000 that went toward purchasing 32 Spot devices.

With help from Spot, Anderson and the foundation crew are on par to screen 110,000 children by Dec. 31, seriously outpacing the earlier average of 20,000 kids per year.

“What used to take a full day of screening, we can do in two hours now,” Anderson said. “We can do 20 kids in two minutes. We used to have to write everything down on paper forms. Now everything we do is encrypted. I put it on my computer at the end of the day and send it into the cloud. This technology is amazing.”

On the road again

With the results from Spot and the foundation’s hearing tests, students know whether or not they need to schedule an appointment with an optometrist or hearing specialist. Schools and other organizations pay the foundation $100 for a screening session with Anderson or King.

“That’s a drop in the bucket for what it costs us to go out,” Anderson said. “It used to cost us $650 a day to take the trailer out. It’s better today with smaller cars and better fuel economy.”

Despite being further into a post-career career than he’d ever envisioned, Anderson figures he has “at least five more years” to offer the foundation in his current role.Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Wally Anderson displays a Welch Allyn Spot Pediatric Vision Screener the Lions Club Sight and Hearing Foundation uses to screen schoochildren for vision-related problems.

“I think I have that in me,” he said. “If I didn’t enjoy it, I certainly wouldn’t want to be working that much longer.”

Just like in his trucking years, Anderson admitted the tedium of road life — and missing his wife, Joyce, and their grandchildren — can get to him at times.

“Being away from home isn’t real pleasant all the time, but I’m used to that as a truck driver,” he said, adding that, in some cases, absence makes the heart grow fonder. “Sometimes when I’ve been home too long, my wife calls the office and says, ‘Get him out of town.’”

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