Lions clubs in Shenandoah County are partnering with area schools to offer virtual training for public and private school staff to help students with diabetes.

The local Lions clubs have long focused their efforts on supporting testing for children’s sight and hearing in addition to diabetes education, said Hal Ladehoff, president of the Woodstock Lions Club.

He said the idea for the Lions Empowering and Aiding Regional Nurses in Schools (LEARNS), happened after Kathleen “Kathy” Gold, the Lions coordinator for the “Diabetes Care at School: Bridging the Gap” e-learning program, approached him about including clubs in Basye-Bryce Mountain, New Market, Mount Jackson, Edinburg, Woodstock and Strasburg.

“It just happened at the right time,” Ladehoff recalled.

The local Lions clubs do a lot of things together, he said, so it’s reasonable for them to partner on this effort.

“It’s a service project for the Lions,” he said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the club and others around the county had to temporarily stop using its mobile van where they screen for sight and hearing problems.

The clubs also collect used eyeglasses and hearing aids, Ladehoff said, using a glasses refurbishing center in Winchester “where they classify, clean and refurbish the glasses which are sent to countries where people cannot afford glasses.

“We also collect some hearing aids that are reworked for people that cannot afford them,” he said.

The e-learning diabetes program offered a way for the clubs to maintain their work with area children while keeping safe during the pandemic.

Gold said the local Lions have adopted the public and private schools in Shenandoah County to provide aid for school nurses and other school personnel to learn ways they might be called upon to assist a student with diabetes.

Participating schools receive instant, unlimited access to the e-learning program by all school district staff, she explained. The program offers three levels of diabetes training so each school nurse can “provide the appropriate program for every staff member at any time,” Gold said.

The program is offered in collaboration with the Virginia Diabetes Council, the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Health Department, the Virginia Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists, Virginia Association of School Nurses, Lions District 24-L and Lions Club International Foundation.

It received grant funding in 2019 to provide the e-learning program for all school districts within the boundaries of District 24-L, said Gold, a nurse, certified diabetes educator and former chair of the Virginia Diabetes Council.

The program’s goal is to eliminate disparities and offer equal education, support and access to information in all school districts.

School nurses in elementary, middle and high schools enroll to receive continuing education credits, gaining an overview of diabetes and training on technology aspects of diabetes care including how to use continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps.

Based on the success of the pilot program the Lions Clubs located in Shenandoah County have agreed to fund licensing for the program each year to ensure the training will be available to school staff in Shenandoah County.

Currently, the school division’s nine main schools are signed up, and Ladehoff said they’ll add a private school in the coming year, which Gold confirmed as Shenandoah Valley Adventist Academy in New Market.

“It was a good fit,” she said of partnering with the local Lions clubs.

Around the state, the program has been growing in the last two years, too.

In the first year, they had more than 3,000 people take the program, and so far this year they’ve seen more than 4,500 participants statewide.

“They can do it at their own convenience,” Gold said. “We’ve gotten positive feedback from faculty.”

Some school districts have mandated that all employees view the program, including bus drivers, cafeteria staff, coaches and physical education teachers.

In the first year, from July 2019 through June 2020, the program saw an 88% completion rate from participants who signed up and so far this year has seen an 85% completion rate.

“We had very, very good response,” said Gold.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com