Utah nonprofit donates eyeglasses to 400,000th child

Santi Morales, 9, was excited to get new glasses that looked “like a volcano.”

“Just on the bottom of it, it's like yellowish,” he said, describing the way the color of his new glasses melts from red to yellow.

He said they’ll help him see better at school.

Utah-based nonprofit Eye Care 4 Kids helped its 400,000th child on Friday.

The organization that began 20 years ago in Midvale has now become a national and worldwide effort, helping hundreds of thousands of kids. Its founders celebrated the new milestone this week as the mobile eye checkup clinic visited the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salt Lake.

A line of kids arrived to get an exam, and those who needed glasses got to select out of dozens of shapes, sizes, materials and colors. One boy quickly noticed a rectangular wire pair. As he tried them on, he exclaimed that they looked just like his dad’s. He knew they were his choice without trying on any others.

“It’s 20 years old, 400,000 kids, and that's an important number, but what's more important is 400,000 — one — kids, because that's how many kids, their lives were changed. So that's important, that each individual kid is recognized. But this is a big milestone. When (my wife) and I first started this, we thought we'd help 100 kids, 200 kids,” Joseph Carbone said.

“Twenty years later, 400,000. And now that we have a different set of glasses on, we're looking to the future with our telescopic glasses, and the goal for Eye Care 4 Kids is to sight the world,” he said.

“We really feel that this is our calling, that this is what we're supposed to do, and we're a team. So we get to do this in partnership, hand in hand,” he said of himself and his wife, Jan Carbone.

The couple says they believe a higher power has been involved in helping them reach as many kids as possible.

“Because we really tried to mess it up, not on purpose, but it’s still here. So we feel we're being guided, and sometimes we're taking a leap of faith, we’re walking into the dark, but it’s working out, and we feel as blessed as any child that's been helped by Eye Care 4 Kids,” Joseph Carbone said.

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Jan Carbone recalled a trip to a New Jersey Boys and Girls club, where a 12-year-old boy came in to get his eyes checked. An ophthalmologist working with the nonprofit discovered the boy had advanced glaucoma.

“Which is something that kids generally don’t have. If he had not been seen that day, within six months he would have been blind,” she said. “And so it's situations like that that make you realize, we have been so blessed and lucky to be where we are when we need to be there.”

She noted his parents, from a low-income area, likely wouldn't have had the opportunity to learn that something was wrong.

By 2025, the organization wants to have helped 1 million children, Joseph Carbone noted.

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