CLEVELAND - Students at one Cleveland elementary school received free eye glasses Thursday as part of World Sight Day.
Students at Marion Seltzer School received vision screenings at the start of the school year and any child identified with the need for prescription eyewear received free glasses from Helen Keller International during the follow-up visit at the school Thursday.
Helen Keller International's outreach is part of a $250,000 Empowering Health grant from UnitedHealthcare to help the organization provide school and community-based vision screenings, comprehensive eye exams and glasses to low-income children and adults in northeast Ohio.
Hornel Bilongo, a good student and soccer player, got glasses for the first time Thursday. He said he had to sit in the front of the classroom to see the board and was nervous about getting glasses at first, but now things are just better.
"I can see everything!" Bilongo said as he slid the glasses over his eyes for the first time. "Like the sign over there. I couldn't see it, I was like blind. I couldn't see anything but now I can."
While a pair of glasses can seem like such a small thing, officials say they can make a big difference in someone's life. However, sometimes getting an eye exam and glasses are not a small thing for a family to do.
"Roughly 80% of health is affected by very simple non-medical things like housing, access to good food -- good healthy food -- isolation transportation and things as simple and fundamental and glasses and hearing aids. So we got involved with this opportunity to really help kids." United HealthCare Health Plan CEO Rick Dunlop said.
"You can't learn if you can't see. So if you can't see that board and can't see the work in front of you, it's going to be a struggle. Your learning experience is going to be a struggle and it's all free," School Nurse Michael Cotter said.
46 students received new glasses along with a hard case, cleaning cloth and a copy of their prescription for their parents.
Marion Seltzer School is just one of several area schools where students will get a chance for better vision and a better chance to stay on the road to success.
Last year the Helen Keller International screened more than 6,500 school children for glasses. This year they say the organization is on pace to help even more children.