Irving C. Wishnow
Eye Care for Kids Foundation
Purpose Prize Fellow 2014
This optometrist collaborates with school nurses and eye doctors to provide free eye exams and glasses to low-income and uninsured kids.
In 1998, I read a letter in The Houston Chronicle that said thousands of schoolchildren never get eye exams or glasses because their families can’t afford them. I’m an optometrist, and I’ve long provided free eye care to many low-income kids. But clearly more help was needed.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was so anxious to take care of these children. Vision problems in the classroom, or ‘blackboard blindness,’ are associated with poor grades and behavioral issues. I thought about how to create a collaboration of like-minded people to help. Suddenly, the name came to me – Eye Care for Kids.
The next morning, I immediately registered the name. I then approached friends, colleagues and friends to join me. No one refused to help.
Has provided 38,000 eye exams and glasses and 130,000 vision screenings
Works closely with nurses in 50 school districts and 100 volunteer doctors
Serves 3,000 low-income students every year from pre-K to grade 12
Since then, Eye Care for Kids has worked with 50 schools across Houston to provide nearly 38,000 examinations and glasses and 130,000 vision screenings for children who otherwise would be squinting at their lessons. Every year we see 3,000 low-income students from pre-K to grade 12. Our innovative program reaches so many kids because we collaborate with school nurses, who check for vision problems and handle the paperwork for the free services provided by our 100 volunteer provider doctors.
The children say their glasses have helped them to improve their grades. They joke that their video game scores are better, too.
As a participating doctor, it gives me great pleasure to witness the reaction of kids seeing clearly for the first time. The thought that so many have joined in supporting these efforts is truly heartwarming. Even a local elementary school gathers pocket change to support Eye Care for Kids. When one little girl from this class threw me a kiss, I knew that she understood the love that comes from giving back. I feel blessed to do this work each day.