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Dr. Paige Participates in Cheers for Charity Fundraiser

Dr. Paige Participates in Cheers for Charity Fundraiser

Cheers for Charity

No need to drive south to enjoy the Florida Keys. Hundreds gathered at 3 Keys Brewery & Eatery for the third annual Cheers for Charity Summer in the Keys guest bartending fundraiser.

Cheers for Charity is a Women’s Giving Circle composed of young professional women in Manasota who raise funds for local charities. The ladies of the giving circle were the bartenders for the evening. Funds are raised through tips, raffle ticket sales and a portion of food and beverage sales.

Party-goers arrived in their best summer luau gear for a night of fantastic raffle prizes, photo-booth antics, delicious food and drinks and fun music provided by DJ David Flanary. Bartenders Amanda Tullidge, Janel Shinn, Nadine Baez, Jill Gass, Annie Breitinger, Erin VanderVeen, Erin Boihem, Alexis Georgiou, Margi Dawson, Christy Cardillo, Michelle Cross, Erika Lisch, Stephanie Hodges, Sarah Crittenden, Sierra Butler, Bianca Martorella, Shari Phillips, Olivia Horne, Jamie Heater, Brigid Driskill, Marisa Powers, [Eye Center, Inc’s] Dr. Paige Gillenwaters-Laudicina and Amy Morris served beer after beer as the tip jars quickly filled.
“We are so grateful to this community for the incredible support they give us each year. Every year our group grow in numbers and the event grows in attendance,” said Annie Breitinger.

Spotted were Jonathan Fleece, Jill McGarry, Peter Acker, Brian Johnson, Laura Johnson, [Eye Center, Inc’s] Dr. Brad Laudicina, Joey and Jodie Kerns, Jennifer Jaso, Tammara Purdin, Alex Breitinger, Amanda Broadway, Ani Mena, Cassy Timmons, Joseph Calinski, Heather Roembke, Anne Chapman, Fred Moore, Kelly Fox, Steve Peebles, Tracey Vita, Andrew Chapman, Mike and Stacey Gilkison, Richard Bardwell, Caroline Fox and Justin Powers.

“Cheers for Charity was thrilled by the turnout and support of the community that made it our largest fundraiser yet!” said Amanda Tullidge. “We are so excited we raised over $3,000 tonight and will be presenting a check to the four incredible non profits we chose to support this year. Visible Men Academy, The Mark Wandall Foundation, Vintage Paws Sanctuary, Inc. and Family Network on Disabilities are all amazing organizations and we are honored to be supporting them.“

The Cheers for Charity Women’s Giving Circle is organized under the auspices of the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund. Women’s giving circles are a unique way for women to pool their time and resources for a charitable purpose.

This article originally appeared in the Herald-Tribune, August 6, 2017

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Dr. Paige Participates in We Care Manatee's Purple Reign

Dr. Paige Participates in We Care Manatee's Purple Reign

If you were a fan of Prince, there was only one place to be recently – the Purple Reign event, held at Renaissance on 9th in Bradenton and benefiting We Care Manatee.
Seen at the event were [Eye Center, Inc.’s] Dr. Paige Gillenwaters-Laudicina, Kimberly H. Hopper, Jennie Slater, Marie Pender, Jill McGarry, Jackie Woods, Jackie Wilson, Wendy Passman, Carol Rice, Debbie Gigliotti, Valerie Vale, Brandy Hamilton, Victoria Kasdan, Debbie Partridge, Robyn Faucy, C.J. Bannister, Margi Dawson, Karen DeSimone and Key Fitch, among many others.

Guests, dressed in all shades of purple (including bright neon-purple wigs sported by Key 2 Life’s Pink Powerhouse Divas), perused a variety of silent auction items before sitting down for the program and lunch.

Event Planning Chair Tricia McKay Powers welcomed guests, noting that We Care Manatee fills a huge need in the community, “providing quality healthcare, regardless of a person’s ability to pay.“

We Care Manatee provides free, quality medical care and referral services to low-income, uninsured and under-insured adult residents of Manatee County. Indeed, last year We Care Manatee, with the help of 83 volunteer physicians, treated 678 patients who received nearly $500,000 in health care services.

Victoria Kasdan, executive director of We Care Manatee, noted that this is the first year of what hopefully will become an annual event. I think you will agree, she said, that “we are putting the fun in fundraiser today”.

After lunch, and a short video on Prince’s career, guests enjoyed a high-energy fashion show by Macy’s, with models Caitlin Williams, Dawn Allen, Diana Rutland, Diane Lehman, Kayley Alsina, Mary Jo Hixon-Cohen, Sarah Berry and Veronica Thames dancing down the runway to some of Prince’s biggest hits.

This article originally appeared in the Herald-Tribune, June 11, 2017. {Herald-Tribune photo of Dr. Laudicina and Marisa Powers by Wendy Dewhurst Clark}

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Vision Foundation helps local students

Vision Foundation helps local students

Each year, students in kindergarten, first, third and sixth grade get their eyesight checked during state-mandated vision screenings in Florida.

The in-school screenings, which usually take place in the fall, help uncover vision problems before they get worse and begin affecting students academically.

But a report released by the Florida Department of Health reveals that a large number of students who were found to have vision problems in Sarasota and Manatee counties do not get help.

In Sarasota County, nearly half of the 627 students who failed their vision screening are sitting in class without needed glasses or with outdated prescriptions, according to the report. In Manatee County, more than 75 percent of the roughly 800 students who failed the screening are in the same predicament. The report, which covers the period from July 2016 to March 2017, accounts only for kids in the four grades screened, and students who weren’t absent on the screening day.

For many students, the repercussions of untreated vision problems are reflected in school report cards. When the school year started last fall, intensive reading teacher Brenda Zofrea noticed that one of her students — a bright, well-behaved eighth-grader at Booker Middle School — wasn’t doing her work. The student had glasses, but her prescription was old and the earliest appointment her mother could book through her insurance was in February, nearly five months away.

“She was a smart girl, but she was just totally held back because she couldn’t see,” Zofrea said. “By February, you’ve pretty much lost the year.”

National issue

It is a national problem, says Robert Slavin, professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education.

Slavin was part of a research team that conducted a three-year pilot study on the relationship between vision and reading scores in Baltimore schools. Researchers saw marked improvement in scores for students who were provided needed glasses.

“You have kids failing in school every single day because of this very simple and easily resolved problem,” Slavin said.

Zofrea understood her student’s pain all too well. She had bad eyesight herself as a child, but she was too shy to ask for a seat closer to the chalkboard, and didn’t get glasses until she hit college. She grew up thinking that neon road signs were supposed to look fuzzy, and that math was not her strong suit.

“To this day I don’t have a good foundation in math because I couldn’t see well and missed out on what was going on at the elementary level,” she recalls.

Zofrea, who teaches intensive reading to middle school students who are behind in school, tried to find a way to help her student, but it was complicated.

When Zofrea transferred to a different school in January, the student was still wearing the same outdated pair of glasses.

Seeing solutions

In Florida, two state-funded programs — Florida Heiken Children’s Vision Program and Florida’s Vision Quest — help with getting glasses for kids who fail vision screenings. But those programs only serve students who are uninsured.

Sarasota County schools also have access to a Student Emergency Fund overseen by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The funds can be used by administrators and counselors to pay for items, like glasses, that are considered a one-time need for eliminating a barrier to learning.

The fund has paid for six pairs of eyeglasses this year. As the program has grown, in many cases the administrators may not be aware that the money is available, said John Annis, senior vice president of community investment at the foundation.

Typically, when students fail a vision screening, letters are sent home and the school tries to follow up with parents at least three times, but numerous things need to happen after a child fails that initial screening, said Bradenton-based optometrist Dr. Sarah Mackie.

Mackie founded the Eye Center Vision Foundation, a nonprofit that provides vouchers for free eye exams and glasses for students in Manatee County. She said more than 80 students have used the vouchers this year, but that many more have been distributed.

“A lot of those kids are just not getting in,” Mackie said. “I think the biggest issue for parents is transportation and getting time off from work to bring kids to the exams and then return to pick up the glasses.”

In Baltimore, the solution was to bring the process into the schools. Slavin and his colleagues partnered with the city’s health department, the school system and nonprofits to create Vision for Baltimore.

The program brings mobile eye clinics outfitted for on-site services to the city’s schools. Kids are examined and pick out their frames on the bus. In a couple of weeks, the glasses are delivered to the school — usually two pairs, one for school and one for home, because, Slavin notes, kids are kids and it’s not rare for them to lose their first pair. Medicaid pays for a portion of the glasses and the rest is funded through philanthropic support.

The project also switched over to universal screenings that looked at all students in pre-k through eighth grade. Universal screenings are critical, said Collins. Many states only mandate screenings for students in certain grade levels, but that usually leaves a big gap of students whose problems can go undetected for years.

“A part of what we’re trying to do is convince schools that eyeglasses are not just a health issue,” Slavin said. “They’re part of reading programs and math programs — eyeglasses are one of the things you can do to make sure kids are successful.”

This article originally appeared in the Herald-Tribune on May 27, 2017.

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