“I’ve had really poor vision since I was a little kid,” admits actor Jake Gyllenhaal. “Every time I needed new glasses, we would send my old glasses to New Eyes. When I started looking for a cause that I had a strong personal connection to, I immediately thought of New Eyes.” Founded in 1932, the nonprofit New Eyes for the Needy donates used eyeglasses to people who can’t afford to buy new ones.
The average cost for a new pair of eyeglasses in the US is $200. For low-income families, that price can be insurmountable. In fact, 30 percent of children and half of adults in the U.S. need access to glasses.
Uncorrected vision creates myriad problems—especially for children who struggle in school because they have difficulty reading.
“I’ve seen kids who were on the verge of failing out of school who got glasses from New Eyes and their lives changed,” says Gyllenhaal. “It’s made me think what kind of life I would have had if my parents hadn’t been able to afford my glasses.”
Likely, that would have been a very different life indeed, as people with uncorrected vision often struggle with essential everyday tasks like reading traffic signs and food labels.
A wider lens
New Eyes has provided free glasses to more than 400,000 people in the U.S. and more than 8 million overseas. This year the nonprofit plans to distribute glasses to 10,000 people in the U.S., a 67 percent increase from last year. People who want to help can donate money or their own used eyeglasses.
“At New Eyes, 100 percent of individual donations go towards the purchase of new eyeglasses for people in need overseas,” says Gyllenhaal. “It’s been great to be part of a mission that can make that kind of impact.”