November 26, 2013

Kids Vision for Life gives eyeglasses to needy students

Posted in Between Us column, Business, Health at 11:41 pm by dinaheng

If a student can’t see the blackboard, it’s likely to affect his or her ability to learn.

Through Kids Vision for Life, a project initiated by the Essilor Vision Foundation, students in a growing number of states are getting access to free vision screenings and free eyeglasses, which educators say is making a difference in the classroom.Dinah Eng

The project, which launched in 2008, is backed by Essilor of America, a division of the world’s largest eyeglass lens manufacturer, the Alcon Foundation, Safilo, Lions Clubs International, and other partners.

“It’s incredible to see the need,” says Patrick Esquerré, a board member of Kids Vision for Life and founder of La Madeleine, a chain of French bakery-restaurants in the United States. “People make the connection between literacy, good education, a safe society, and a productive economy, but few people make the connection between having good vision and literacy. You have to be able to see to read.”

According to a 2002 report by the American Optometric Association, 20 percent of all school age children in the United States needed glasses, and 90 percent of those who needed glasses, didn’t have them.

Esquerré says he was tapped by Hubert Sagnieres, chairman and CEO of Essilor, to help launch the student outreach project because of La Madeleine’s involvement in various community volunteer efforts, ranging from support for PBS to local food banks. Today, Esquerré, chairman of the development and expansion committee, travels the country, putting together local coalitions with community and vision-related organizations under the Kids Vision for Life umbrella.

Kids Vision for Life mobile clinic. Photo courtesy of Kids Vision for Life.

Kids Vision for Life mobile clinic. Photo courtesy of Kids Vision for Life.

The project began operating in Texas, with local partnerships organized in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and nearby areas, then expanded to include Southern California and the Atlanta and St. Louis areas. A push to establish a cluster of communities in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore corridor is also underway.

“We go to schools with mobile clinics, which have two optometrists who take care of the children at the schools,” Esquerré explains. “After their exams, the kids can pick out cool frames for their glasses. We make 60 percent of the glasses in the mobile clinics, and 40 percent go to a lab, which makes higher prescription glasses.”

In some areas, community centers may host an event, where 10 to 15 area optometrists will be on-site to examine the children’s vision. More than 56,000 pairs of eyeglasses have been distributed to needy students to date.

Esquerré says the effort has been praised by educators, who notice that getting eyeglasses benefits more than just the student who sees better.

“The principal at an elementary school in Dallas noticed that fourth grade test scores went up two years ago after students received their eyeglasses,” Esquerré says. “In most schools, nurses screen the kids for vision problems, but parents can’t always afford the eyeglasses. We’re excited about bringing this project to everyone who needs help.”

For more info on Kids Vision for Life, check out


1 Comment »

  1. Caleb said,

    It is so great to read about acts of kindness like this. Just giving glasses can go a long way into impacting someones life.

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