A program to provide low-income children completely free eye exams and glasses that started in Utah continues to expand. Eye Care 4 Kids is now in five states, has 35 full-time employees and dozens of sponsors – including NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal
Started by Utah businessman Joseph Carbone more than five years ago in the Salt Lake City suburb of Midvale, the program has grown quickly, attracting the attention of big corporate sponsors and Shaq, too. Carbone has been giving glasses to underprivileged kids since 2001 when he had a business as a local optician. His giveaway plan started with annual visits to the Navajo nation to help those kids.
Then in 2006, Carbone jumped into the deep end and completely left his regular for-profit business and went into the nonprofit world full time. Carbone says he got some good advice – to “run his nonprofit like a Fortune 500 company.” That led him to develop a full-on business plan and get a strong board of directors. All that good planning led to the rapid expansion of the program.
Recently, Carbone was in New Jersey, setting up a clinic at a Newark Boys and Girls club. That caught Shaq’s attention – the big man has always been a fan and supporter of kids and the programs that help them create better lives. There was a meeting between Carbone and Shaq, and that led to Shaq volunteering to become the national spokesman for Eye Care 4 Kids.
The program continues to grow. Starting in 2001, Eye Care 4 Kids estimates it has given away about 300,000 pairs of glasses… now with the program expanding and getting lots more attention, the goal is to give out 100,000 pairs of glasses each and every year.
Along with the help of Spokesperson Shaq, Carbone’s program has gotten attention from a number of other big sources, including Doctor Oz. Carbone has been on Oz’s program twice in recent years, which has helped bring in monetary contributions.
Facebook video of Shaq talking about his helping out Eye Care 4 Kids. https://www.facebook.com/eyecare4kids/videos/10154413452978784/