Vision Care 4Life: Illuminating Lives Through Optometry at Special Olympics Kansas

Situated in the heart of Wichita, Kansas, Vision Care 4Life, led by optometrist Wendy Foster, stands tall, leaving a profound impact on athletes through its dedicated service at Special Olympics Kansas’ Opening Eyes screenings. Erin McDaniel, Health and Fitness Manager for Special Olympics Kansas (SOKS), engaged in a conversation with Foster and Tisha Allen, the Office Manager at Vision Care 4Life.

Foster shared the mission of Vision Care 4Life, emphasizing its commitment to helping the local community and extending a caring hand globally. The essence of Vision Care 4Life is deeply rooted in the dedication to giving back and making a difference.

“In a nutshell, it’s about reaching out further than the community and into the stretches of the world… It’s all about giving back for me,” explained Wendy Foster, encapsulating the spirit of Vision Care 4Life.

In a candid discussion about personal values, Foster revealed her frugality and dedication to recycling, reusing, and reducing, principles that seamlessly transcend into her professional life. Here, Vision Care 4Life goes beyond routine optometry, actively engaging in various charitable programs, reflecting a commitment to community welfare.

Foster’s journey from a young optometrist to the founder of Vision Care 4Life unfolded as a testament to her passion for service. The evolution from pediatric ophthalmology to working with Lions Club and finding a perfect fit with Special Olympics Kansas showcased Foster’s commitment to being passion-driven.

“The camaraderie and loyalty of the Wichita area drew me in, and I chose to stay there and clung to like-minded people,” Foster shared. “I found an amazing group of serving people.”

Tisha Allen, Foster’s trusted colleague, joined the journey over a decade ago and became an integral part of Vision Care 4Life’s success.

Vision Care 4Life’s model revolves around being charitable and fostering education. Foster and Allen shared key services, highlighting their collaboration with charitable organizations like the Medical Service Bureau, Project Access, and Essilor Vision Foundation. As a full-scope optometrist, Foster’s commitment extends from routine eye exams to glaucoma care, with a focus on collaboration rather than referrals.

Foster vividly described the inception of their involvement with Special Olympics Kansas, emphasizing the high need and alignment of values with the Special Olympics movement.

“I totally agree with the Special Olympics movement because it is working, and we are reaching other people. We need to reach more people, although daunting, but we need to, and it is happening,” Foster stated.

Foster’s role as a Clinical Director for Special Olympics Kansas’ Opening Eyes screenings came to life through training experiences in Florida. The overwhelming support from SOKS and improvements in organizational planning, under Erin McDaniel’s guidance, marked significant milestones.

“The number of athletes to serve is always overwhelming. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my staff, and volunteers, and I think we are headed in the right direction for sure, and I see it blossoming even more,” Foster expressed, acknowledging the collaborative efforts.

The dialogue unfolded to the heart of Vision Care 4Life’s impact—the Opening Eyes screenings. Foster detailed the growth from 50-75 athletes in their first Summer Games to over 200 in 2023. The screening process, meticulously planned with volunteers at every station, showcased the dedication and passion behind the scenes.

Allen emphasized the importance of volunteers, and Foster expressed the desire for more volunteers to create a supportive environment. Vision Care 4Life’s goal of having 100 volunteers is a testament to their commitment to fostering community, providing breaks, and ensuring a stress-free experience.

As Clinical Director, Foster shared the profound impact on athletes’ lives. The joy of being remembered by athletes and receiving gratitude from parents exemplifies the meaningful connections forged through Vision Care 4Life’s service.

“Getting thank yous from parents is a huge deal to me. Just being able to answer questions and hear stories they have about us from last year. New people coming in and realizing and seeing people’s reactions for the first time is a big deal for me,” Foster shared.

Foster and Allen took a moment to appreciate their dedicated staff and volunteers. From gaining employment to transforming students into clinicians, Vision Care 4Life’s model of teaching and community engagement has created a supportive environment.

Looking ahead, Foster envisions growth and expansion of services. The plan to train new clinical directors underscores Vision Care 4Life’s commitment to meeting the ever-growing need for eye care services.

“We are looking at a total of 3 clinical directors in the next couple of years, with the addition of Dr. Diana Ho and potentially one more. Our goal is to grow and serve more! We need to expand and meet the need and should be doing so at all times,” Foster emphasized.

Contributing to the conversation, Allen shared a compelling perspective, stating, “Our staff is always behind us 100%.” Foster chimed in to add, “There are so many people that cared during this last screening. People were standing next to me just waiting for orders because they were willing to help.” Allen continued, “We have this community, although we want it bigger, you are totally surrounded by people who truly want to help. It is really cool how we all come together.” Allen’s words highlighted the strong sense of community and support that fuels Vision Care 4Life’s impactful initiatives.

In conclusion, Vision Care 4Life’s transformative impact on athletes’ lives, coupled with their dedication to community service, showcases the remarkable difference that passionate professionals can make.

“Volunteering for nonprofits will fill your cup,” Foster stated, emphasizing the importance for health professionals to engage in such community service. Allen added, “It is a humbling experience. Volunteering with ANY nonprofit.”

Foster’s advice to those looking to make a meaningful impact encourages overcoming fear, seeking serving opportunities, and recognizing the value of even small contributions. The journey of retired clinicians or those seeking shadowing experiences, Foster noted, is invaluable and contributes significantly to community welfare.