Oakley and OneSight Team Up to Give the Gift of Sight to Elementary School Kids in Santa Ana, Calif.

RH-121030-120636

The dark-haired fifth grader can’t believe what she’s seeing. Well, actually, April Garnica can’t believe what she wasn’t seeing just minutes prior. Bob Burnquist, the legendary big air skateboarder, is kneeling at the girl’s side, beaming as she pulls her black-framed eyeglasses away from her eyes and then puts them back on. The difference is stunning. She looks around the auditorium, surrounded by other Martin Elementary School kids who are going through the same eye tests she did earlier in the day. She reads signs and notices details that were previously blurry. Burnquist, who delivered the glasses to April as part of the OneSight program, has helped to give her the gift of sight.

More than 150 kids from three Santa Ana, Calif. elementary schools would experience the same thrill over the course of two days as they made their way into the OneSight Vision Van for their eye examination and later received their own pair of eyeglasses – all free of charge, courtesy of OneSight, the non-profit and Luxottica, the event sponsor. OneSight has been around for 26 years and puts on clinics locally, regionally and internationally. The stop in Santa Ana is the sixth stop on a seven-stop tour in October.

Peter Richardson, the school’s principal stands in the center of the room, taking in the scene. He first heard about OneSight the previous year and reached out to see about the possibility of bringing the program to his school and district. After getting permission from the district and “jumping through all the hoops paperwork-wise,” the project received the green light.

“We just knew there was a need. We’re in an area where most of our families are considered from lower socioeconomic status and we’re always working to try to get them health insurance, but we do have students who don’t have any insurance at all, so this is really just an opportunity to get them seen,” Principal Richardson said. “We know too if they can’t see, their learning isn’t going to be up to their potential, so it just makes sense to get them here.”

A screening process determined which children were in need of an examination and potentially eyeglasses. Once kids entered the auditorium, they received the full exam that a customer or patient would receive at any clinic or retail practice: testing depth perception and for color deficiency; the tintometer or “puff test” to screen for glaucoma; several other tests and then a full exam by a trained and certified optometrist. Afterward, they would sit with a LensCrafters employee and actually pick the frames that they want and then at the end of the school day, they were delivered their new glasses.

Though it can be a long process to get all the kids through the pre-screening tests and into the Vision Van – since only two exam rooms are on the van – the nearly 100 Luxottica and Oakley volunteers helped to ease the process. Helping them feel at ease during tests, having staring contests with them while they waited, talking about school and then working alongside them at the Halloween-themed arts and crafts table, they brought their unique personalities and skillsets into the environment in order to create the best possible experience for the children and school staff.

“It’s a really beautiful experience when you get to see a nervous young person come in, kind of shy, they’re not sure what to make of it, they don’t necessarily know what’s going on, then the Oakley team and all the other volunteers bring it to life for them,” explained Trevor Gamble, a Field Marketing Rep Manager with Oakley, who spent most of the day working in the Vision Van. “Everyone treats the kids really, really well, walking them through the whole process, making them feel comfortable. We’re kind of like the cool older people in the room [laughs]. After they get the eye exam they’re feeling a little bit better, and I think the magic really happens when they’re choosing their frames and it starts to become real that they’re going to get vision correction and it’s theirs and they own every part of that.”

Burnquist and fellow Oakley skateboarder Greg Lutzka spent the majority of the afternoon helping talk the kids through tests, participating in some arts and crafts and helping them pick their frames. Burnquist even talked about the change his Oakley Rx glasses had on seeing his landings while executing his hugely dangerous big airs. “It was night and day, that difference,” he said. “It’s not really something you notice until you actually have the reality presented to you.”

“It’s rad to see the opportunity that a lot of these kids have that they wouldn’t have if OneSight didn’t come over,” Burnquist continued. “And then the reaction, the kids getting their glasses for the first time and that ‘I can actually see’ moment, it’s really rewarding and heart-warming. It’s a simple thing, the technology is out there and prescription glasses have been around for a long time but a lot of these kids probably wouldn’t even wear glasses, even though they need it, because, obviously, it’s something that you’ve got to go and do and it’s not cheap. So it’s rad to see OneSight and Oakley come out and be part of something like this.”

As if receiving the gift of sight weren’t enough, all of the kids at Martin Elementary were also entertained by a BMX stunt show on the playground. A quarterpipe and ramp for launching huge jumps were set up and huge tricks were performed by three BMX legends. Toward the end of the show, to the approval of all the kids lining the area in their classroom chairs, one of the guys even launched a jump over the principal. Such a good sport, the principal actually allowed it to happen twice.

Principal Richardson’s goal is to have the OneSight program return in 2013.

“We know the need is here, and hopefully if we do things right this can be scaled a little bit bigger next time to include other schools in Santa Ana,” Richardson said. “We have about 55,000 students in the district, so we just know lets say we had almost 10 percent of our kids being seen today, so you figure you scale that up to 55,000 and there’s a lot of kids out there who could use the help.”

While April was playing around with her new glasses and talking to other friends who were getting exams, one of the volunteers pointed out the technician who actually built April’s glasses. A huge smile spread across her face and she ran up to the man and gave him a bear hug. Tears were in the corners of her eyes when she pulled away.

“I believe that we come to give the gift of sight to the under-served,” said Leona Dockery, the Project Manager for the OneSight Santa Ana event. “My takeaway is that every single day I receive the gift of insight. Insight to what’s going on in our world at Luxottica, what’s going on in the communities that we’re serving and just really how blessed I am in the life that I’ve had.

“We’re seeing children with vision needs that they don’t know what they don’t know; they don’t even know what they’re missing,” Dockery continued, “and we’re getting to change lives. Not just put a pair of glasses on a child, but we’re changing each others lives as we’re connecting, and really having a great time doing it. It’s such a gift to come to a community and provide such a necessary resource that some people take for granted.”

If you would like to learn more about the OneSight program, there’s tons of information about the non-profit and future events on the website, onesight.org .