May 27, 2012 | Updated: January 29, 2019

By Bitty Reilly

Two seconds.

That was all the time Kevin Collins, Gators #24, would see each flash card while he had to walk, balance and respond.

While Collins walked the beam, without looking down, Haris Dzubur from the Rosenberg Sports Vision Association asked for a number, color or ball from the card flashed in front of Collins.

This task, Thien Tran, treasurer of SVA, said was a way they felt would show how keen an athlete’s awareness must be, in a fun, but proven way while increasing strength in peripheral vision.

During the 2012 Special Olympics Summer Games, there were vision screenings as well as the fun developmental tasks like those spurred by the SVA in the Wellness Park. The Healthy Athletes Program was designed to help athletes who may not have an opportunity otherwise, to get medical care and screenings. The Wellness Park was also about fun and relaxation from the strenuous training schedule of an athlete and their supporters.

“This is testing the visual motor [skills] of the athletes,” Dzubur said. “We wanted something more fun and sporty.”

It was soon clear that Collins was an athlete when he moved across the beam, teetering a couple times, but not falling. At the same time, he recited the requests of Dzubur while Tran flipped the cards.

“Training is part of vision and visual memory,” Dzubur said.

The two would log how often a participant stopped, lost balance, hesitated and recited the incorrect answer as part of their study.  

Eric Aguilar attended Opening Eyes at Saturday’s Wellness Park during the 2012 Special Olympics Summer Games at University of Texas at Arlington.

Earlier in the day, he performed Shot Put, throwing an 8-pound ball the best of three shots to win second place. Aguilar said he has been training about eight years.

Along with the host of generous volunteers, Aguilar was guided through the eight steps to better vision with the eighth being the finished product of designer sun glasses or prescription glasses. During the second phase, he identified shapes from a eye similar to the Snellen eye chart (with the giant E then other letters progressively smaller).

“This checks visual acuity,” volunteer Audrey Reed said. “Then there is the color blindness, near point and depth perception. “

Reed said the auto refraction would gauge the refraction error in the eye or whether someone is near-sighted, far-sighted or different. This test used a puff of air to blow on the eye which Aguilar admitted tickled a little.

“The first time was okay, the second, not so good,” he said of his previous eye exams.

Saturday made the third time Aguilar has had his eyes checked. He had glasses that he wore some times. After his eight-step process he found at 20/50, he would need glasses more than that.

Doctor Ralph Herring of Houston said the group had seen about 245 patients Friday alone. With support of Essilor for the lenses, the Lions Club International for equipment and Safilo Group and Liberty Optical for the frames, Aguilar plus all the other patients the doctors saw would be treated well.

“This is all new stuff, this is first line. Boss and Polo,” he said of the sunglasses. “Healthy Athletes is the largest public health initiative.”

The venture is a global affair, while Healthy Athlete is still in its infancy at 10 years old.

“When I was in Belize, some folks rode the bus two hours to get checked because they’ve never had one,” Herring said. “This is such a misunderstood population.”

The visit to Healthy Athletes may be the first time some at UTA SOTX would get a health check for some things.