Card features art by Mt. Juliet teen with early onset glaucoma; public input through December 25 will help direct funding to children’s hospitals across Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tenn.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Delta Dental of Tennessee (Delta Dental) today launched its annual holiday campaign, pledging a collective $75,000 in donations to the seven children’s hospitals across the state. The funding will be directed in part based on public input, and Tennesseans are invited to select the children’s hospital close to their home or their heart to receive additional dollars from Delta Dental online and via social media through December 25.
This year’s card features a festive penguin and was created by Mt. Juliet teenager Avery Lynch. In 2016, Avery, always a good student, told her parents that she couldn’t see the board in class – even from the front row.
“In class, everyone would be like, ‘The answer is 3,’ and I would be like, ‘Oh, I can’t even see the question,’” said Avery. “So that’s when I started asking my friends, ‘How do you guys know the answer?’ I couldn’t see it, so I couldn’t answer it. That’s what kind of made me first start asking, ‘What is going on?’”
The admission that she couldn’t see in class was a “big shock” to her parents, who quickly took her to see an eye doctor, which in turn led to a referral to see a specialist. The family connected with Karen Joos, MD, PhD, at Vanderbilt Eye Institute, who specializes in the management of glaucoma in adults and children. Joos ordered an MRI, which, while scary for the entire family because then 9-year-old Avery had to be sedated, helped confirm her diagnosis: early onset glaucoma.
Glaucoma is caused by high eye pressure which damages the optic nerve and leads to gradual, irreversible vision loss if untreated. While eye and vision problems are relatively common in children (an estimated one in five preschool children have vision problems, and one in four school-age kids wear corrective lenses), glaucoma is both rare and hard to detect, affecting approximately one in 5,000 kids.
When caught early, glaucoma can be managed. To prevent her vision loss from advancing, Avery takes two separate eye drops, twice a day. She has progressed from glasses to wearing contacts, a move that has allowed her to continue to play competitive volleyball, and she visits Joos twice a year for extensive testing.
“It’s a whole regimen of stuff that she has to do, with the calendar and alerts and times. She has grown into that now, she sets her timer and does it completely on her own,” said her father, Jimmy Lynch. “We’re really proud of her because she has to do it, she does it, and she does it consistently.”
Avery’s parents have committed to sharing their family’s story as a way to give back.
“Preventive care is extremely important, it doesn’t take very long to do, and it could really help your child down the road if you just take a few simple steps to look at something early,” said Amanda Lynch, Avery’s mother.
Jimmy, a video producer by day, was inspired to start working with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to help document patient and family video stories like their own following Avery’s diagnosis.
“I can’t say enough good things about Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. They do such a great job. And not just with the kids, with their parents, too, because when someone goes through something like this, it involves the entire family,” he added. “Any story I’ve ever done, the parents are always very willing to do whatever they can to help because they know the value of the care their child has received as well as I do.”
“We are grateful to Avery and her family for sharing their experiences,” said Jeff Ballard, president of Delta Dental of Tennessee. “As so many of us are counting our blessings this holiday season, their story is a powerful reminder to stay on top of your health. Glaucoma and so many other diseases for which early detection and treatment are critical often present with no initial symptoms. Seeing your doctor for routine preventive care and checkups gives them the opportunity to spot early warning signs and symptoms, and ultimately leads to better long-term health outcomes.”
To make your selection in the holiday campaign, visit DeltaDentalTN.com/holiday by December 25 and follow Delta Dental across social media @DeltaDentalTN. Likes, comments, and shares on Delta Dental’s posts spotlighting each of the state’s seven children’s hospitals will be counted as part of their respective public input totals.
For more information about Delta Dental of Tennessee, please visit DentalDentalTN.com.
Delta Dental of Tennessee
Delta Dental of Tennessee is the state’s largest independent dental benefits carrier with 1.4 million lives covered. As part of the Delta Dental Plans Association, Delta Dental of Tennessee members have access to the largest dental network in the nation with more than 154,000 providers serving more than 443,000 locations. With the simple mission of ensuring healthy smiles, Delta Dental of Tennessee works hard to help members of the communities it serves. Along with its corporate foundation, Smile180, Delta Dental of Tennessee donated more than $5.4 million in funding and in-kind services to over 110 organizations in 2022.
Ann Waller Curtis