I recently talked to Dr. Kellye Knueppel about her trip to the Special Olympics World Games, where she volunteered as part of the Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes Program. I came away with the impression that her volunteering to help athletes with significant vision problems was one part altruism, one part heavy-duty career challenge.
In case you haven’t been keeping score at home, this is the sixth Special Olympics World Games that Dr. Knueppel has attended. She was one of seven international optometrists asked to volunteer at the event, and she was asked to help once again because she is an expert at prescribing lenses for very difficult vision problems.
When I started working with The Vision Therapy Center, I was immediately struck by the amount of time Dr. Knueppel devotes to the Special Olympics, and the Opening Eyes Program, for which she is the state’s Clinical Director.
Besides countless hours Dr. Knueppel donates to the cause, most of her staff also volunteers for the Wisconsin events, where they help prescribe and provide lenses for the athletes. There are also countless hours spent sorting glasses and distributing them to the athletes.
In tight recessionary times, the cynic in me had to wonder aloud – why does Dr. Knueppel do it? Or more appropriately, why does she do it so much? It’s one thing to volunteer some time to help, but it’s a whole different story to make the kind of contribution Dr. Knueppel does on a regular basis. The answer, I believe, is in two parts.
The first part of the answer is, without a doubt, altruism. Before she opened her center, Dr. Knueppel told me her interest in vision therapy initially stemmed from her love of sports. She was considering a career where she could help athletes improve their performance by both fixing their vision problems and enhancing their visual skills.
As her schooling progressed, Dr. Knueppel realized the enormous impact vision therapy can have on young children – particularly those with problems in school. She put the athletic focus on the back burner, and instead opened up a clinic with the primary intent of helping children who are struggling academically and socially because of vision problems.
There was much more money to be made in either general optometry, sports vision therapy, or even running a smaller vision therapy clinic. But Dr. K’s overall goal, like her mentor Dr. John Streff, was to help more people learn about and realize the benefits of vision therapy.
I think that same concern for helping kids carries over to Dr. Knueppel’s participation in the Special Olympics. But I also think it’s only half the picture. Dr. Knueppel also aspires to be very good at what she does. Like any quality professional, she’s always looking to improve her skills. And there’s no better venue for diagnosing vision problems than the Special Olympics. I’ll detail why in our next post.
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