EyeCare4Kids gives children a chance to see the worldApr 30, 2022 11:36AM ● By Peri Kinder
By Peri Kinder | [email protected]
Joseph Carbone tells the story of a young boy who came to him for a pair of eyeglasses. Once they were ready, the boy put them on, looked out the window and said, “I didn’t know trees had leaves.”
The boy’s words hit home and Carbone made it his mission to provide glasses for children all around the world. “It’s just such a happy experience,” he said.
Carbone is a board-certified optician who opened his own clinic, The Eye Doctor, in 1978. In 2001, he started EyeCare4Kids, where he provides eye education and exams, vision screening and new glasses for children. The nonprofit headquartered in Midvale has given out hundreds of thousands of eyeglasses.
“While in my practice I saw many kids went without professional eye care because of lack of access or their parents couldn’t afford it,” he said. “Last year, we presented our 400,000th child with a pair of glasses at the Boys & Girls Club with our mobile clinic.”
After more than 20 years, Carbone has expanded his nonprofit into Nevada, Arizona, New Jersey, and soon he’ll open a clinic in Kenya, in cooperation with a Catholic hospital in the area. Each year, he spends a few weeks at the Navajo Nation, providing exams and glasses to children.
Children living in poverty don’t usually get new items, receiving hand-me-down toys, clothes or shoes. Often, these children get eyeglasses handed down from an older sibling because the family can’t afford a new pair. But the used glasses don’t fit the vision needs of the child.
“They rarely have something that’s their own and kids can become self-conscious,” Carbone said. “When they receive a pair of glasses from EyeCare4Kids, they get to choose their own frames from a vast selection of options. They get glasses to call their own. They love the glasses and they love to wear the glasses.”
Children are often referred to EyeCare4Kids through educators who notice a student isn’t improving academically. Other referrals come from service providers and church organizations. Through donations, Carbone continues to fund new glasses, which usually cost $90 per pair.
People living in poverty receive the glasses for free. If a child has Medicaid, the insurance covers the cost. For those who don’t qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford to visit a private optician, a pair of eyeglasses is $35.
“It’s so meaningful when a mom just takes your hand and says thank you,” Carbone said. “She knew her child needed something but she couldn't provide it.”
With his mobile clinic that travels to rural areas, and his goal to have a clinic in every major city across the United States, Carbone said there will be no reason for a child to go without professional eyecare services or glasses. For more information, or to donate to the cause, visit EyeCare4Kids.org.
“I’m the most blessed man on earth,” Carbone said. “I have the greatest gift. I’ve retired from my regular practice and I’m 70 years old. I hope my wife and I get to do this for 10 more years.”