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Austin woman making sure other kids never have to face what she did

Chelsea Elliott with classroom full of young students. (KEYE)

An Austin woman is on a mission.

"When I was four years old, I failed a vision test and we later learned I was blind in my left eye," said Chelsea Elliott. "A year later, a failed hearing screening in kindergarten revealed that I was deaf in my right ear."

To ensure no other kids have to face what she did, Elliott started the Half-Helen Foundation, named in honor of one of her heroes.

"In the fourth grade I learned of Helen Keller's amazing life for the first time and declared that I am half-blind, I am half-deaf, I am Half-Helen," she said.

At age 15, Elliott had her left eye removed.

"I learned that my conditions could have been prevented had they been detected early."

Half-Helen's mission is to ensure all children get their eyes and ears tested early. They use a machine called a spot vision screener to take a picture of a child's eyes. That picture takes 23 measurements, checking for things like near and farsightedness, astigmatism, and more serious conditions which could lead to blindness. Half-Helen also does screenings for hearing.

The majority of children are just fine, but finding a child who does needs help, like a little boy who turned out to be severely farsighted, keeps Elliott going with her mission.

"He came out of a mobile vision van wearing a new pair of glasses and walked up to his mom and I and said, 'Mama, you have freckles, I didn't know that!' And that alone was probably one of the most transformative moments that I've had," Elliott said.

By later this fall, the Half-Helen Foundation will have screened 20,000 kids. If you'd like to learn more about the work they do CLICK HERE.

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