Photos Courtesy of Katherine Gardner
By Steve Sears
She’s seeking to become a Gold Award Girl Scout, the highest attainable honor from the honorable group, but you know by speaking with her that the cause she’s focused on is really the most important thing of all. She’s trying to help get a bill passed that would mandate vision screenings for youngsters before they go into preschool and encourages parents to be cognizant of the need to do so.
The cause is one Gardner is familiar with. She has been blind in her right eye since birth. “When I was about six years old, it was around the time where a lot of kids were getting glasses,” she says. “I’m not sure how exactly I did this or how I got the idea to do this, but I covered my left eye, and realized I couldn’t see out of my right eye. And I said to my mom, ‘Mommy, I can’t see so well. I see peach.’”
After Gardner’s school nurse also discovered the young girl couldn’t see, an appointment was made with various optometrists, and then a glaucoma specialist, Dr. Steven Kane, who diagnosed her with pediatric congenital glaucoma. After several surgeries, she was still able to see out of her left eye, but unfortunately not her right eye.
As part of Gardner’s quest of prevention of vision loss in young children, Dr. Danielle Gaeta and Dr. Heema Patel of Advanced Eyecare Associates in Ledgewood, New Jersey, will provide a no-cost eye assessment clinic for babies 6-12 months old on Friday, March 19, 2021, from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Parents should call (973) 584-2020 to make an appointment. If all available appointments are filled, an additional event will be considered.
Gardner, who as a Girl Scout earned her Bronze Award in elementary school and Silver Award in middle school, encourages parents to take advantage of the gracious Advanced Eyecare Associates offer. “Parents with young children – they take their kids to the pediatrician and the dentist, but they forget the eye doctor. And it’s something that’s needed,” Gardner says.
Regarding the Gold Award, the following is gleaned from the Girls Scouts of the USA website: Gold Award Girl Scouts are the dreamers and the doers who take “make the world a better place” to the next level. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable—proof that not only can she make a difference, but that she already has.
Seniors and Ambassadors who earn the Gold Award tackle issues that are dear to them and drive lasting change in their communities and beyond. Think of the Gold Award as a key that can open doors to scholarships, preferred admission tracks for college, and amazing career opportunities.
“I will always be an advocate for this,” says Gardner of an early-in-life vision eyecare visit. “Even after finishing my project. It’s very important for parents to realize that a visit to the eye doctor is necessary.”
“Katherine’s biggest focus here – her ‘vision,’ so to speak – is to have all children’s eyes checked, at least before pre-school. At least one eye exam by a doctor. The focus should be on awareness,” says Karen Gardner, her mom. She then continues. “She (Katherine) is remarkable. She pursues life like anyone else, is eager to take on different challenges, and in this case, she really wholeheartedly wants to make a difference, not just for children who have vision loss or even potential vision loss, but to have all kids be able to be well, to have a good quality of life. I am so proud of her. She’s learning to be a special education teacher through the Morris County School of Technology, and she really has a passion for kids and children, and she wants them to have the best quality of life and to reach the best potential. So, this is another one of the ways that she is pursuing that.”