Free vision clinic provides underprivileged Angelenos with check-ups, glasses

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Just around the corner from the Exposition Park Science Center, hundreds of students gathered Wednesday for a different kind of analysis — vision tests.

OneSight, the organization behind the event, set up full vision care diagnostics and had dozens of volunteers and staff on hand to test the vision of nearly 300 students from local K-12 schools.

The event was one of 12 "regional clinics" the organization is hosting in 2012. OneSight volunteers and doctors pair up with local nonprofits to run a temporary clinic, providing check-ups and glasses to those who can't afford them.

Cyndi Jones, the "zone captain" of OneSight's West Coast region, oversaw the event. "This is the second day in operation and it's been going great," she said.

Kids piled into lines for full-vision check-ups. Those whose vision didn't get straight A's peeled off into a different line, where they received glasses — which were provided for free.

But these weren't the grab-bag leftovers you get for reduced rates at vision stores; students still had plenty of variety to choose from for their new specs.

Glasses are produced on-site in OnSight's "EyeVan," a truck designed for the speedy development of eyewear.

“It’s exciting, what we do," says Nick Zifarelli, one of OneSight's lab technicians. "The satisfaction of the kids seeing is amazing. A lot of the kids we see now have never worn glasses before, and the smile on their faces when they can see is just priceless.”

Andrea Kane, vice president of the organization's West Coast Zone, agrees. She said she still remembers her first time volunteering for a free clinic.

"The most surprising thing for me was to have high school kids [show up] who couldn’t pass the visual acuity test," says Kane. "They literally couldn’t see. I was blown away, I couldn’t understand how they would be able to do their schoolwork."

According to the World Health Organization, 284 million people worldwide suffer from poor vision — and at least 80 percent of that poor vision could be avoided or cured.

OneSight has set up similar service events around the globe and continues to expand their operation, urging nonprofits to contact their local LensCrafters to learn more about partnering with them. The OneSight Foundation itself is financed by the Luxotica Group, an eyewear conglomerate that includes LensCrafters and PearlVision stores.

The Los Angeles Regional Clinic will run until March 31.

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