Truro optician helps under privileged children

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TRURO – Danny Nolan heard stories of what to expect on a OneSight mission, but until he could see it for himself, little did he know exactly how rewarding it would be.

Nolan, an optician with Pearle Vision in the Truro Mall, returned on Saturday from a week-long mission in Bakersfield, Calif., where he was the only Canadian on a team that outfitted more than 400 children with glasses for free.

“I’d heard stories from a manager in Fredericton that has gone on four missions and it just felt like the right time for me to give back,” said Nolan, who has been with Pearle Vision for 32 years. “It was unbelievable. It’s always talked about how giving to children is a great thing, but what you get back from it is so much more.”

Pearle Vision’s parent company, Luxottica, established OneSight in 1988. The initiative provides glasses and eye care throughout the world, with 11 million pairs being donated since it was established.

“It was very busy. We worked from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. They hoped we would service about 300 children, but we serviced 405 students and of those 405, 390 of them needed glasses.”

The program, said Nolan, has a lab on wheels – a ‘vision van’ – that can manufacture the majority of glasses on site.

“Through the Vision Van, we manufactured 336 pairs immediately.”

Of the students the OneSight crew tested and fitted, Nolan said the majority were Latino and from low income families.

“There were a lot of farm families,” said the optician. “The poverty rate is 21.4 per cent in that area, and most had not seen an eye doctor before.”

The children were in grades primary to six and pulled together from 16 different schools in the area. They were all pre-screened beforehand.

“Students compensate because they don’t know they need glasses, so to see just the smiles, it was so rewarding,” he said.

Before Nolan left, Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Scott Armstrong gave him Canada flag pins to distribute.

“Being the only Canadian, it was a great place to break the ice with,” Nolan explained. “Many of the kids didn’t know where Canada was and to find out there’s lots of snow was astounding. One of the girls that I gave a pin to, proclaimed herself as an honorary Canadian.”

That girl, named Katelyn, has a -4 prescription.

“To see her being fitted with her glasses was great, but I delivered them to her in her classroom. She was beyond happy.”

During the mission trip, Nolan said the crew saw at least two sets of twins. One set was seven years old. The identical twins had identical prescriptions. Another set of twins – girls – had no vision in their right eyes.

“The doctors testing them didn’t know they were twins, but when they saw the prescriptions, they knew they were,” said Nolan.

The most rewarding part of the mission for Nolan is knowing how the glasses will help with the students’ school life.

“A lot of those students may have been known as slow learners or are disruptive in class, but that’s because they can’t see,” he said. “I’m so glad to have been a part of it. If I could spend the rest of my career doing this, I would.”

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Twitter: @TDNRaissa

Organizations: Pearle Vision, Luxottica

Geographic location: Bakersfield, Calif., Fredericton, Canada

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