PHILANTHR’OPTIC’: GIVING THE GIFT OF SIGHT

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Many optical organizations are devoted to giving the gift of sight either through independent non-profits, separate philanthropic divisions of major optical companies, or commercial enterprises whose business model includes giving a portion of revenue to charity.

With the traditional gift-giving season upon us as we approach the end-of-the year holidays and the fiscal close of many companies’, there are a number of ways that you can benefit by giving to the many charitable organizations at work in our optical community.

Beyond the sense of helping those in need, businesses can take advantage of the tax benefits that come from giving as well. This year, in particular, charitable organizations need help. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, donations to the nation’s biggest charities dropped 11% last year, a decline that was the worst in two decades.

For each pair of eyewear purchased, 141 donates a pair.

Optical Charities
With that in mind, if your practice makes it a habit of donating at the end of the year or if you’d like to take advantage of financial benefits that your practice can reap by donating, the following is a brief description of many of the charitable causes in the optical community:

141 Eyewear: A new socially conscious eyewear line based in Portland, OR, 141, gives a new pair of prescription glasses to a person in need for each pair of eyewear purchased. No portions of proceeds, no percentages, simply one for one.

South Jersey Eye Center president and CEO Dr.
Lawrence Ragone and COO MaryAnn Ragon.

A&A Optical: This eyewear company partners with a number of charitable organizations every year. As a part of the annual Ron Jaworski Fall Golf Classic charity golf tournament to benefit the special United Way Jaws Youth Fund, A&A Optical donated Jalapeños and PEZ optical frames to the South Jersey Eye Center’s “Sight First for Kids” program, which provides eye exams and eyewear to uninsured and under-insured children. The South Jersey Eye Center has been providing vital eyecare services to the residents of Camden City and surrounding South Jersey since 1961 and is completely dedicated to providing free and low cost eyecare to poor, low, and moderate income, uninsured and under-insured as well as homeless residents. The centerpiece of the South Jersey Eye Center is its 34-ft. Mobile Vision Clinic that is completely equipped with ophthalmic instrumentation and makes its services accessible to schools, headstart programs, daycare centers, senior housing centers, special needs kids, health fairs, community events, and many others.

In addition, A&A also contributed 500 Jalapeños Sol frames to Unite For Sight, a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness. Joleen Moore, a Unite For Sight volunteer, traveled to Accra, Ghana, to work at the Crystal Eye Clinic and personally deliver the Jalapeños Sol frames.

Optometric students examined children in the remote city of Tjakastad, South Africa, as part of the Bona Bolo campaign.

Bona Bolo/Nouveau Eyewear: Nouveau Eyewear kicked off a series of screenings in an effort to bring healthcare to more than 2,000 children in South Africa. Since its launch in April, the Bona Bolo (“see the ball”) campaign has gained momentum and brought much needed healthcare to over 650 children. With a goal of screening 2,020 youth by the end of the year, the project is well on its way to making a difference for thousands. Most recently, Nouveau partnered with the Dreamfields Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the game of soccer to rural South Africa. Together, the soccer team rode alongside students from the University of Limpopo School of Optometry for six hours to reach the remote city of Tjakastad. Volunteers and optometric students worked for five and a half hours to ensure that every participant received a thorough examination. Thirty children were found to require vision correction and received vouchers for free frames and prescription lenses. Nouveau donated Umbro frames, a collection of eyewear geared toward the soccer enthusiast, and Essilor donated prescription lenses. In addition, Bona Bolo is made possible through the help of the South African Optometric Association (SAOA) and Myoptics, the exclusive Umbro eyewear distributor in South Africa.

Essilor Vision Foundation: Essilor Vision Foundation is a public charity whose mission is to eliminate poor vision and its lifelong consequences. The organization focuses on kids in local communities who could not otherwise afford vision care. By providing free exams, eyewear, and follow-up care the Essilor Vision Foundation helps kids see clearly today to give them a better chance of succeeding tomorrow.

Eyes of Faith: Eyewear company Eyes of Faith donates 10% of gross sales to children’s charities and partners with RestoringVision.org to give one pair of reading glasses to mission groups for every pair of Eyes of Faith frames sold.

Eyes of Hope: Active for less than two years, VSP’s Eyes of Hope® program has already distributed over 50,000 glasses to those in need around the globe since its inception in December 2008. The program receives donations from across the U.S. through a growing number of avenues that include small and large businesses, eyecare practices, schools, healthcare facilities and individuals. DIRECTV recently rolled out the program nationally to provide its employees with an additional opportunity to participate in charity outreach. The Eyes of Hope Program increases awareness about the importance of eye health and provides communities with the opportunity to support a charitable cause by donating used glasses. Once the used glasses are received by VSP, they are refurbished, cleaned, and labeled to benefit those in developing countries through VSP doctors and world missions. The majority of VSP doctors participate in self-funded missions to emerging countries where they have identified a need, while other’s work through larger organizations such as Lion’s International and the Voice of Optometry in Developing Nations (VOSH) for mission opportunities. VSP clients and members can request donation boxes on vsp.com/community. VSP providers can request donation boxes by accessing the Supply Request form on VSPOnline through eyefinity.com. To actively promote donation opportunities, VSP provides supporting communication materials for providers and clients including e-mail templates, marketing collateral, and newsletter and Web site content.

Fight for Sight: For more than 60 years, the non-profit organization Fight for Sight has provided funding and acknowledgement to promising young scientists early in their eye research careers through its annual grant program. Grantees range from undergrads to new post-doctoral professionals who are not yet eligible for government support from the National Institutes of Health. Since its inception, the organization has given out over $20 million in grants to more than 3,000 eye researchers.

Frames for the World: Frames For the World, Inc. is a non-profit charity (founded by National Vision Inc.) that takes in donations of new eyeglass frames from manufacturers and retailers and distributes them to pre-qualified non-profit clinics serving the poor in the developing world.

Healthy Sight for Life Fund: Transitions Optical created the Transitions® Healthy Sight for Life Fund to centralize and strengthen its corporate giving endeavors, unifying them with the mission to “help preserve healthy sight for life.” To achieve this goal, funding and educational resources are made available to global, regional, and local charitable organizations or efforts whose purpose is to help raise awareness of the need for eye exams, eye protection, and the enhancement of visual quality…and who are striving to help eliminate preventable blindness.

Laugh for Sight: Laugh for Sight is a non-profit organization in New York City dedicated to raising funds and public awareness for retinal degenerative eye diseases, specifically retinitis pigmentosa, stargardt’s disease, and macular degeneration. The proceeds benefit the Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and Guiding Eyes for the Blind, one of the top guide dog schools in the world. Laugh for Sight was founded by legally blind stand-up comedian Brian Fischler and Scott Wartham. The first event was held in Beverly Hills, CA, in March of 1999 and benefited The Foundation Fighting Blindness.

New Eyes for the Needy: New Eyes for the Needy is a non-profit, non-sectarian volunteer organization that purchases new eyeglasses for poor children and adults in the U.S. and recycles donated glasses for distribution to indigent people in developing nations worldwide. The agency was established in 1932. Since then, New Eyes for the Needy has brought improved vision and hope for a better future to more than 7 million people in the U.S. and around the world.

OneSight: OneSight is a family of charitable vision care programs dedicated to improving vision through outreach, research, and education. Since 1988, these charitable efforts have provided free vision care and eyewear to more than 7 million people in need around the world and have granted millions of dollars toward optical research and education. The OneSight Research Foundation has doubled its efforts to support optometrists of the future through the Dr. Stanley Pearle Scholarship Fund in 2010. In past years, ten students were awarded scholarships to assist with their optometric education. This year, 20 deserving students will receive $2,000 to help fund their education beginning in fall 2010. The Scholarship Committee received twice as many applications this year and decided that the increase in applications should be matched with an increase in scholarships awarded. OneSight also partners with Vision Outreach International (VOI), a non-profit that specializes in optical surgeries in developing countries, the most recent collaboration taking place during the Paraguay Clinic in August. The OneSight team focused on refractive errors and referred patients with other needs to VOI.

Optometry Cares: Formerly known as Optometry’s Charity™, Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation administers the American Optometric Association’s public health programs, including VISION USA and InfantSEE®. Its mission is to expand eye health and vision care access to everyone in the U.S. in order to enhance human performance and quality of life.

Optometry Giving Sight: This global fundraising initiative specifically targets the prevention of blindness and impaired vision due to uncorrected refractive error, simply the need for an eye examination and a pair of glasses. Optometry Giving Sight funds the development of sustainable vision care services in communities where these do not currently exist. Projects focus on local training, capacity building, infrastructure development, and the delivery of accessible and affordable vision care services. Optometry Giving Sight supports of the goals of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. VISION 2020 aims to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020, in order to give all people in the world the right to sight. The WHO announced that over the past 10 years, VISION 2020: The Right to Sight has contributed to a 10% reduction in the number of visually impaired people worldwide.

Sherrye Hutcherson knew her four-year-old
twins needed glasses because of Prevent Blindness America.

Prevent Blindness America: Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness America is the nation’s oldest volunteer eye health and safety organization. By promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness America touches the lives of millions of people annually through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screening and training, community and patient service programs, and research.

RestoringVision.org: A non-profit founded in 2003, RestoringVision.org provides new reading glasses and sunglasses to groups going to developing countries. The organization has provided over 1.1million glasses to over 250 groups serving 75 countries. Focusing on near vision, the organization’s goal is to ensure that optical missions going to developing countries and impoverished neighborhoods in the U.S. have enough reading glasses to meet patient needs.

Profits from Safilo’s Emporio Armani (Product) Red sunglass collection go to the Global Fund to Help Eliminate AIDS in Africa.

Safilo: Safilo’s involvement with Special Olympics started in 2003 as global supplier of the Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes® vision care program. Safilo supports the Opening Eyes program by supplying free optical frames and sunglasses. Essilor provides lenses, allowing thousands of athletes to receive much needed eyewear. The Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes vision care program is part of Special Olympics’ award-winning Healthy Athletes® public health initiative. It is the largest program in the world dedicated to providing vision care for people with intellectual disabilities. Athletes have the chance to benefit from vision screenings as well as receive prescription eyeglasses, sports protective eyewear, and UV protective sunglasses. The Opening Eyes care and prevention program was founded by the American Optometric Association’s Sports Vision Section and formally incorporated into the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program in 1997. A generous grant from the Lions Clubs International Foundation, the largest service club in the world, formalized a global partnership and enabled the Opening Eyes program to expand internationally.

Also from Safilo, the partnership between Emporio Armani and (Product) Red‚Ñ¢ continues with the launch of a new style of sunglasses for both men and women, for which a part of profits of these sales will be directly given to the Global Fund to Help Eliminate AIDS in Africa.

Unite For Sight: Unite For Sight is a non-profit organization that empowers communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness. Unite For Sight supports eye clinics worldwide by investing human and financial resources in their social ventures to eliminate patient barriers to eyecare. The programs are locally led and managed by ophthalmologists at Unite For Sight’s partner eye clinics. Unite For Sight‚Äôs international eyecare services with partner local eye clinics are comprehensive, including examinations by local eye doctors, diagnosis and care for all treatable conditions, education, and prevention. To date, Unite For Sight has provided eyecare services to more than one million people worldwide, including more than 34,123 sight-restoring surgeries.

Vision Outreach International: Since its inception in 2002, Vision Outreach International (VOI) has mobilized over 250 volunteers on missions to 20 countries around the world. In all, several thousand cataracts have been removed by VOI’s teams. The organization also emphasizes teaching the necessary skills to an ever-wider cross section of eyecare professionals around the world to reach the greatest number of blind in need.

VonZipper: As part of its Charity for Clarity program, VonZipper will donate one optical frame to Physicians for Peace for every optical frame it sells in 2010.

Obviously, there’s no shortage of people in need of eyecare throughout the world, but it’s also clear that there are many charitable organizations established globally to help them.

John Sailer is Senior Editor of First Vision Media Group. Contact feedback@visioncareventure.com with comments and/or suggestions for future topics.

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