MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A West Virginia University Eye Institute program that provides vision care to residents in rural areas of West Virginia is getting a financial boost.  

The Appalachian Vision Outreach Program (AVOP) has received a $40,000 grant from the Bernard McDonough Foundation.  The grant will support adult vision screenings, general clinics, sub-specialty clinical services and education on the importance of vision health for those who do not have access to regular eye care and are not able to travel to the Eye Institute because of lack of transportation or other barriers.

“Thanks to the Bernard McDonough Foundation’s support of AVOP, we are able to continue our adult vision outreach services to West Virginians who may otherwise not receive the vision care they need for independence and employability,” said Ronald L. Gross, M.D., director of the WVU Eye Institute and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology.

The Appalachian Vision Outreach Program began in 2011 with a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The AVOP team uses state-of-the-art portable eye examination equipment to quickly set up eye clinics at a variety of West Virginia Association of Free Clinics and community clinic sites.  Local Lions Clubs also partner with the Eye Institute through volunteer support.  Through the program, uninsured and underinsured West Virginians have been able to receive care ranging from glasses to surgery.

West Virginia has some of the highest numbers of medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, smoking, lack of good diet, cardiovascular health and lack of exercise, which contribute to and increase the prevalence of the three leading causes of blindness, including age related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, Gross noted.

He believes that gifts to the WVU Eye Institute allow for continued innovation in eye care across the state.

“Private support from The McDonough Foundation and other foundations and individuals helps the WVU Eye Institute fulfill its mission to the state to restore vision and prevent blindness,” Gross said.

Since its start, AVOP has evolved to reach more venues, more patients and offer an expanded range of services throughout the state.

The Bernard McDonough Foundation, a private foundation located in Parkersburg, W.Va., was founded to improve communities within West Virginia.

The Foundation’s benefactor, the late Bernard P. McDonough, emerged from humble beginnings to have a very successful business career. His McDonough Company became a Fortune 500 NYSE firm. Although he kept a low personal profile in business, McDonough made cover stories in Fortune and Sports Illustrated magazines.

McDonough’s focus was to use philanthropy to enhance the mind, body and spirit. After McDonough's death, his wife, Alma G. McDonough, further funded the Foundation enabling it to increase granting initiatives. For over 40 years, the Foundation has addressed human need issues in basic health and social welfare.

Current Bernard McDonough Foundation directors continue the legacy left behind by the McDonoughs by instituting grants that create a healthier, more educated and culturally appreciative citizenry.

The $40,000 Bernard McDonough Foundation grant was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.