This weekend, dozens of Bay area children will be able to see more clearly thanks to the Glazer Family Foundation.
On Thursday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and Buccaneers Cheerleaders traveled to Graham Elementary School to help the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Program deliver prescription eyeglasses to nearly 30 students in need.
"All of these children and their families were so excited that someone was caring enough to give them glasses, because they can't afford to go just buy a pair of glasses and have an exam," said Debbie Allen, ESOL Resource Teacher at Graham Elementary. "It makes a world of difference. If you can't see the words on a page, how can you succeed?"
The Glazer Family Foundation Vision Program helps improve the eyesight of underprivileged children by providing free eye screenings and prescription glasses to public school students throughout the Tampa Bay area. Since its launch, thousands of local youths have been provided this much-needed service, which not only detects but also helps correct serious vision problems in those who might not otherwise be able to afford such care.
McCoy, who has worn glasses since he was a middle school student, presented the new eyewear to children who had previously had their eyes screened and were deemed in need of glasses by the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Mobile.
"I don't use my glasses to play on the field because everything is big, but when it comes to reading and finding where I'm at, just functioning in general, I need my glasses," said McCoy. "These kids don't realize until they put the glasses on how much they need them and how much they help them in life, and that's all we are trying to do here today."
McCoy's outreach efforts continued on Friday when he led a visit to Lockhart Elementary School, where nearly 40 more students received their much-anticipated glasses. The Bucs' charismatic 24-year-old also spoke to the students on the importance of healthy eyesight and its correlation to improved education.
"It felt awesome to know that [McCoy] also wears them," said third grader Abraham Torres. "It felt good to see someone else wear them too. All those kids are wearing them."
Thursday and Friday's distributions were a collective third step in the Foundation's Vision Program efforts at both elementary schools. The schools had previously received visits from the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Mobile for eye screenings as well as follow up visits for students to get fitted for glasses. The end result was some very happy children.
"I love them," said fifth-grader Davion Nelson, "because I can see better and I think that my grades might pull up!"
The Glazer Family Foundation Vision Mobile, which can also be spotted at each Buccaneer home games, just to the south of Raymond James Stadium, is the signature component of the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Program, a health initiative to provide local schoolchildren with an opportunity to have vision problems identified and corrected. This winter and spring, the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Program is supporting 12 Title I schools throughout Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties by providing free vision screenings and prescription glasses to students in need.
So far, the results have been crystal clear.
"Sixteen percent of our children have had difficulty being able to read, so this is going to make a big difference," said Allen. "I can't imagine what it would be like when you can't understand what is being read because you can't see the words. This is going to make major changes for the rest of their lives. Now they know. It's going to make an impact that is beyond anybody's belief."