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Austin Children Receive Free Eye Exams and Glasses

Photo by Torrie Hardcastle for KUT News
Designer eyeglasses donated to Kids Vision for Life

More than 100 students at Campbell Elementary received free eye exams today, and around 45 received new glasses, as part of a pilot program in Austin.

The project, called Kids Vision for Life, is a collaboration between local and statewide entities organized by the Austin Community Foundation, and seeks to provide children with free eye exams and glasses. The designer glasses were all donated by a company in Italy to the Essilor Vision Foundation, which is donating the lenses and eye exams.

Campbell elementary is one of four Austin-area Title-1 schools selected for the program, and Principal, Lisa Bohanan, was thrilled about the opportunity.

“It’s just awesome,” she said. “At first, parents were hesitant because they thought they would have to pay. So I went through the permission forms and highlighted the word ‘free’ so they would understand. The parents have been so excited and thankful for the opportunity.”

As second and fourth graders lined the school’s gymnasium, kids were excited about the opportunity to get a pair of glasses that very day.

“The kids keep asking me over and over ‘Are we really getting them today?’” Bohanan said. “They are just so excited to be able to pick out their own glasses and be able to see. We even raised our right hands and took a little pledge to take good care of our glasses and not play or sleep in them.”

The designer glasses were all donated by a company in Italy to the Essilor Vision Foundation, which is donating the lenses and eye exams. Essilor CEO Ed Fjordbak said this program was a great way to capture every kid and make sure the ones who need glasses have them.

“You have kids acting out in class and having behavior problems because they can’t see the board and follow what’s going on,” Fjordbak said. “The only way to combat bad classroom behavior and truancy is to keep them excited about learning, and they can’t be excited if they can’t see the white board.”

The kids receiving glasses through the Kids Vision for Life project will be studied in the future by researchers from the E3 Alliance of Greater Austin, as they track behavior, academic performance, and other factors that could be affected by improved vision.

As a young boy beamed at his reflection, complete with new black glasses, Fjordbak said that is the ultimate reward for people running Kids Vision for Life. “For kids who can’t afford glasses, this is just so important. I’ll never forget a boy last year who put on his glasses for the first time, walked outside, looked at the 26-story hotel next to his school, and asked his mom what it was because up until that moment, he had always just seen a fuzzy blur,” Fjordbak said.  “If that doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, then I don’t know what will."