Students from the University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry’s (PCO) Sports Vision Club traveled to the nation’s capital in late July and got to meet a former president of the United States.

Well, sort of. The five students – Sofia Schedler ’21OD, Tanya Vigdal ‘21OD, Stephanie Sikora ‘21OD, Caitlin Davis ‘20OD and Matthew Griffith ‘22OD, along with faculty advisor Dr. Siva Meiyeppen, FAAO – were in Washington, D.C. to partner with Vision Service Plan’s Global Eyes of Hope, the Washington Nationals baseball team, Nike and sports vision optometrist and PCO alum Dr. Keith Smithson, to help screen and provide glasses to more than 100 children in the D.C. area.

“It was really nice to have a more one-on-one experience with the screening,” said Schedler , Sports Vision Club president . “The doctors that were there really let us do the screenings and then they would sign off and make sure we were doing everything correctly.”

It was the second year that PCO students have been invited to participate and learn by one of their own, Dr. Smithson.

Dr. Smithson evaluates and treats professional athletes from the Nationals, as well as several other professional sports teams in the greater D.C. area, including the Baltimore Ravens (football), the Washington Mystics (women’s basketball), D.C. United (men’s soccer) and the Washington Freedom (women’s soccer). He has also served as a sports vision consultant for both Vistakon and Nike and conducts eye exams, does contact lens fittings and treats injuries and diseases for many professional and amateur athletes.

“Sports vision is looking at the visual efficiency of an athlete and determining how well they can use their visual system to direct their body and their movements,” said Dr. Meiyeppen.

Washington Nationals Screening
The screenings for the children were held at a sports complex owned by the Nationals. There was a mobile clinic available, so if a child needed glasses immediately, they got them right then and there, according to Schedler. Even if they didn’t qualify for glasses or need a prescription, each kid (and the Salus PCO students) received a free pair of sunglasses.

At last year’s event, Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon made an appearance. He was scheduled to attend again this year to meet the children and students, but prior family commitments prevented him from being there.

Washington Nationals Mascot
Oh, and about that ex-president that the Salus PCO students and the children attending the screening got to meet? No, it wasn’t Barack Obama or George W. Bush.  It was none other than Abraham Lincoln – a Nationals mascot – that was sent in Rendon’s place to greet everyone. The Lincoln mascot – who along with mascots of president George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt – compete in a race around the warning track during the fourth inning of every Nationals home game.

In addition to good eyesight, the Lincoln mascot apparently has some pretty good wheels as well winning the most total Presidents Race first-place finishes since the race’s inception in 2006. “I went to the game that Saturday, but he didn’t win that one,” said Schedler.