For more than 20 years, EyeCare4Kids has provided children and families with critical eye care and glasses. The number of children helped during this time is over 400,000. For those who have come through EyeCare4Kids clinics, or been served by our mobile clinics, many become like family, and we enjoy catching up and learning about the impact their experiences with our team has had on their lives. Recently, we caught up with Arcelia Venegas, also affectionately known as patient #4.
Arcelia was born and raised in Utah. When she was six-years old attending Copperview Elementary School in Midvale, she started to notice that she couldn’t see well. Glasses were expensive and as someone who likes art and drawing, life started a bit challenging and frustrating.
She was introduced to Joseph Carbone when EyeCare4Kids came to her school for courtesy vision screenings.
Arcelia remembers that all the kids at Copperview were brought into the library, asked to stand on taped lines on the floor, instructed to cover one eye at a time and read different lines of letters on the wall. While a fun adventure for the young students, for Arcelia, it was a difficult process. Shortly after the screening, she was encouraged to come into the EyeCare4Kids clinic for glasses.
When she went into EyeCare4Kids for the first time, she saw a wall of glasses, and she realized that there was so much that went into selecting the right pair.
“There were so many styles, but because I couldn’t see very well, I had to rely on the opinion of others,” said Arcelia. “Good thing that EyeCare4Kids has such good judgment!”
On a subsequent visit to the clinic, the staff noticed that Arcelia’s eyes were sensitive to light. The bright lights of classroom projectors would occasionally cause her headaches. EyeCare4Kids added a small amount of tint to her glasses, helping her focus and avoid the discomfort caused by the lights.
“The tint was such a small thing, but it was the nicest thing they could have done, and it has helped so much,” she added.
Arcelia’s eyesight has continued to deteriorate as she has gotten older, so she regularly visits EyeCare4Kids for new glasses every year, even as she has progressed through junior high, high school, and now into higher education.
On one of her last visits to the clinic, EyeCare4Kids had the same green frames that Arcelia selected when she was seven years old.
“It was fun to see the green pair, and it brought back a lot of memories,” said Arcelia. “The staff has always been helpful in providing solutions for new glasses. If I were to purchase the glasses in full, the cost would exceed $400 because of the thickness of my lenses. I continue to use the clinic because insurance will only cover a small amount, and I also love going to EyeCare4Kids.”
She shared a funny story that describes her relationship with the staff.
“When I was small, I could remember everyone. One of the last times I went in to get my glasses tightened, the staff came up to say hi to me. Without my glasses, I can’t really tell who is talking, but they said, ‘It’s so nice to see you, Arci!’, ‘I’d like to say the same, but I can’t see you.’ We were all laughing about that for a while.”
For Arcelia, EyeCare4Kids has become a second family.
“I have grown up with these people. We’ve had conversations. They have been there as I have grown up. It’s great that they are still helping the community, and I tell kids suffering with similar issues to go to EyeCare4Kids. I’m happy to see that EyeCare4Kids continues to grow and there are so many more people being helped.”
Glasses have ultimately helped Arcelia feel more confidence and gratitude.
“From day-to-day life, I have gained confidence because of glasses. When you squint, you can’t be sure that you are looking at the right thing? When you get glasses, you can be confident that you are seeing the right information. This seems like such a weird thing to say, but (getting glasses) helps so much. You start seeing things that you’ve never seen before.”
Because of her new-found confidence, she started taking honors courses and tutoring other students.
“If I didn’t have the right prescription, who could say I was looking at the right problem or guessing the correct answer. Multiple choice tests kind of blur together, so I might select B, even though I meant A.”
Arcelia appreciates that she was one of the first people to be helped by EyeCare4Kids. The support she has received has encouraged her own commitment to helping others through volunteerism.
“Experiencing everything that happened to me motivates me to want to help others. There is always something that someone might need help with, but they might not have all of the options. I want to make sure they have the help they need.”
Today, Arcelia is pursuing more education. She wants to be an elementary school teacher and is studying business with hopes of possibly opening her own candy store.
When asked what she would tell her six-year-old self, struggling with her eyesight and confidence, she said, “I would tell her, and others like me, that it’s ok not to be perfect. No one is built perfect. If you do need help, there will always be someone to help, you just need to make sure to ask.”
She added, “I definitely recommend EyeCare4Kids for anyone who is struggling. Not only will eyeglasses help you be more confident in who you are, but there is so much of the world to explore.”