Immediately after Dr. Levy shared his photographs of his most recent Give the Gift of Sight mission to Paraguay, I became determined to make an important contribution to the organization's efforts. The photographs depicted thousands of people lined up overnight, as they anxiously awaited the opportunity to have their eyes examined during the mission's brief stay in their country. Those fortunate enough to be among the first three or four thousand in line would receive what would most probably be their first pair of prescription glasses. Their smiles could be compared to individuals in our country who had just discovered they had won a multi-million dollar lottery prize. I tried to imagine living from day to day without being able to see clearly. I could not remove that thought and the smiles of jubilant patients from my mind.
Through diligence and perseverence, I was able to galvanize support within my local community and beyond. Unwavering in my commitment, I introduced the Give the Gift of Sight program to a multiplicity of school districts,local legislators and a diverse array of news agencies. To date I have collected more than 3,000 pairs of glasses to be sent around the world.
My initial goal was to collect one hundred pairs of glasses. I thought it would be easy to ask family and friends and have them in turn ask other family members and friends. As I received my first donations, I realized that I could significantly increase local donations through a more coordinated plan of action. I placed collection boxes in locations I believed people would frequent often and my goal was quickly surpassed. I then created packets describing my project and distributed them to each school's student government in the Half Hollow Hills district and to our superintendent. As schools responded favorably, I delvered collection boxes with my phone number written on the back. When donations started pouring in, I began to seek the help of community organizations and doctors' offices. I was determined to continue to raise awareness by enlisting the help and far-reaching influence of local government officials. County Legislator Steve Stern was willing and enthusiastic to advertise my involvment with this project and gather glasses from our community. I was able to disseminate my message through the invaluable assistance of the Long Island television and print media. Each time an article was written, a surge of donations resulted. The Town Supervisor was so enthusiastic that he put a notation requesting glasses in everyone's paycheck! At my weekly symphony rehearsal I was able to collect over 300 pairs of glasses. On a rotating basis I empty the boxes and deliver them to be cleaned and tagged.
As a result of the massive influx of glasses that I was able to collect, I was invited this past summer to participate on a domestic mission at a Fresh Air Fund Camp in New York. I worked with optometrists,opticians and other volunteers assisting with eye examinations. Every camper was screened and 92% were found to need vision correction.All recipients of glasses in the United States receive new glasses provided by Luxottica Corporation and individual monetary donations.
Over the past year, I have spearheaded all aspects of this project. I have taken an idea that started small, hoping to collect 100 pairs of glasses and have since delivered over 3,000 pairs. A grant from the Brick Foundation would provide eye care for those in need in the United States and around the world.