Long before he was a star linebacker for the Denver Broncos, Von Miller grew up struggling in school. As a child he wore glasses and recalls a memory of his mom fixing a broken pair of glasses with some glue and tape—he remembered the feeling of shame and embarrassment from wearing glasses. For many children, receiving glasses isn’t something they look forward to—they get made fun of because their glasses aren’t cool or trendy.
And for children with vision impairment without corrective lenses, it’s impossible to see, get any work done to be a good student and often challenging to maintain a positive self-image. That’s precisely the case for thousands of Denver school children. Each year Denver Public Schools have nearly 5,000 incoming low-income 1st graders who have never seen an eye doctor and more than 1,900 of those 1st graders need glasses.
According to a 2012 study conducted by The Boston Consulting Group and Essilor, 30% of children experience vision problems that have a significant impact in terms of long-term health, school performance and emotional/social development. Visual difficulties affect children’s ability to learn (three times more likely to fail at least one grade), resulting in academic under-achievement and risk of reduced adult literacy. Vision problems cause developmental difficulties and have been linked to anti-social/delinquent behavior. In the United States, up to 70% of juvenile offenders have undiagnosed vision problems.
Tackling the Problem
Realizing that access to eyeglasses and resulting good vision at school can help children succeed, Miller decided to use his growing platform as an upcoming star of the Denver Broncos to give back to the community that gave him the opportunity to play a sport that he loves. In 2013 Von’s Vision was founded with a mission to provide low-income Denver children with the eye care and corrective eyewear they need to be their best in the classroom and in life. To help kids overcome negative school experiences, like his own, Miller’s foundation provides much-needed eye care as well as a pair of brand-new, stylish glasses that were given to them by Von Miller, to help remove the “glasses aren’t cool” stigma.
“The foundation saw a need here in Colorado, realizing that the state has more than 72,000 low-income children who need some level of vision correction, while Denver Public Schools currently has more than 27,000 low-income students in need,” explains Andrea Baker senior vice president of marketing for the foundation. To date, the foundation has given away 3.6 million in eye care and eyewear to students in need across the country.
How It Works
The foundation’s flagship outreach program, Von’s Vision Day provides children in-need with access to free eye-screening, eye exams conducted by volunteer optometrists and ophthalmologists and high-end, fashion-forward eyeglass frames from provider, Etnia Barcelona. Von’s Vision Centers are mobile optometry kiosks that allow in-need students to receive vision care on an on-going basis without the burden of transportation. Volunteer medical providers conduct on-site eye screenings and exams and children can “shop” for fashionable eyewear and accessories.
The newest community outreach program, Von’s Lockers allow students who already have accurate prescriptions to select a new pair of glasses. This program is conducted in partnership with Hero Practice Services, and allows clinical volunteers to provide a continuum of care for students so issues like broken glasses and changing prescriptions can be resolved in a timely manner.
“Of all I have accomplished as an NFL player, the impact of Von’s Vision is the accomplishment I am most proud of. Serving these students is my legacy and I am proud that I help them succeed.”—Von Miller
Ways To Help
Get Involved: Von’s Vision hosts multiple annual fundraising events in Denver with two of the signature events being A Night to Take Flight and the Club58 Experience.
Donate: Any donation to help the foundation reach more students in Denver is appreciated.
Volunteer: Volunteers are always welcome to help make the experience of the children served better.
Sponsors: Corporate sponsorships are available for the various programs so local businesses can secure to align their corporate social responsibility programs with Von’s Vision.