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.
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 shed 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.
Andersons 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 organizations 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 foundations 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 dont believe I do any more than anybody else, he said. I do my job, and I guess Ive done it long enough that they wanted to say Thank you. Its a great honor, and its very humbling to be in the presence of people whove done so much.
Mara Steen, the foundations mobile health screening program manager and Andersons 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 hes about to get teary-eyed. His heart is so committed to what we do. Vulnerable kids have such a place in his heart.
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 youre an ex-truck driver, and it went downhill from there. Ive 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 foundations 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.
Thats 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. Its better today with smaller cars and better fuel economy.
Despite being further into a post-career career than hed ever envisioned, Anderson figures he has at least five more years to offer the foundation in his current role.
I think I have that in me, he said. If I didnt enjoy it, I certainly wouldnt 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 isnt real pleasant all the time, but Im used to that as a truck driver, he said, adding that, in some cases, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Sometimes when Ive been home too long, my wife calls the office and says, Get him out of town.JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT