Organization helps children get glasses for free

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 3:06 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Students may be back to “seeing” their classmates in person this year, but they may not be “seeing” clearly. One local nonprofit is working to help kids all over RVA get the glasses they need.

Each year, the Conexus goes into schools, checks eyes, and fixes vision problems by giving kids glasses - all of it at no cost. But this year, they’re helping even more kids and doing so after a year of kids learning at home, straining their eyes after a year of virtual learning.

“Probably 3,000, 4,000 pair this year,” said Tim Gresham with Conexus. “And you said it changes their life.”

The group travels to Chesterfield, Petersburg, Richmond, Hopewell, Colonial Heights, and Dinwiddie schools.

Eight-year-old Laila Franta at Harrowgate Elementary says she can’t wait for her new glasses because reading is her favorite subject.

“I’m going to be able to read more chapter books,” she said. “I read a chapter book this morning. It was like fifteen chapters, and I did mess up on some words because it was hard to spell and see sometimes.”

Third-grader Raechel Gibson knew she had a problem.

“Because when at the doctor’s appointment, when at the doctor’s appointment, the doctor eyesight is getting horrible. But when I try on these new glasses, my eyesight, my eyesight got better,” Gibson said.

The team at Conexus said 80% of learning in the classroom is through your eyes.

The principal at Harrowgate said sometimes the kids don’t realize there’s a problem.

“You’re like, well, I have a headache or that looks blurry, but you don’t really realize how bad it is until somebody puts on a pair of glasses on your face. And then all of a sudden, everything becomes clear around you, and you’re just like, ‘wow, I can see,’” said Christina Serola, principal at Harrowgate. “And isn’t that a great feeling? And our students get to experience that, and it’s, it’s amazing. And I think everybody should have that gift of vision.”

But glasses and appointments can be expensive. Conexus absorbs the cost, so families don’t have to.

“Our parents, you know, this is an expense that does not come out of their pocket, and it’s something that saves them some money, and it’s free,” said Serola. “And I just think that that’s a great gift to be provided to our students and our families.”

Now, a big part of keeping Conexus successful for families is funding. Conexus gets funding from a variety of sources - even rescue plan funding. But to help most kids, they also rely on donations.

Conexus is limited by the funds that it raises. It is a public-private partnership, so there is some funding from the schools this year with the COVID catch-up program. Gresham says the program is only limited by the funding it can raise to serve the kids. If people want to donate, click here.

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