Group gives gift of sight to Utah children in need

SALT LAKE CITY -- Forget about presents and toys—more than 100 students in the Jordan School District got something even more important: the gift of sight.

Kate Edwards, executive director for Friends of Sight, said they provide a much-needed service to children.

“Eighty percent of education taught in school is taught visually, so it’s an incredibly important thing for these kids to be able to see in school,” she said.

Eye exams and glasses aren't always a top priority for families who are struggling to make ends meet. That’s why a group called Friends for Sight is spreading holiday cheer by giving students a chance to see clearly for the first time.

This week, six doctors from the Utah Optometric Association gave the children their very first eye exam.

“These are kids that have been vision screened at school, and it’s been detected that they need to see a professional for an eye exam, and these are kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get these services,” Edwards said.

The students were paired with a chaperone to take them through the process. After an exam, students picked from hundreds of donated sets of frames.

“These are kids from needy families, and so some of them are shy about even talking to you,” said Jarrod Davies, president of the Utah Optometric Association. “But most of them are very excited when it’s over to go and pick their glasses and be able to see.”

Edwards said it’s an eye-opening experience for the children.

"We love to be able to take them outside, for them to see leaves on trees and signs that they couldn't see otherwise,” she said.

Doctors say the gift of sight will make all the difference in their education.

“It’s huge, so school is very difficult without being able to see, obviously, and many are experiencing headaches when they read, or just difficulty seeing the board, and so a simple pair of glasses can make a huge difference,” Davies said.

In the coming weeks, Friends for Sight plans to host similar events in the Murray, Granite and Ogden school districts.