Major Leaguers & Our Children’s Vision Give the Gift of Sight

Oct 18, 2016 1:30 PM ET

On a beautiful fall day in Gary, IN, a pair of former Major League baseball players returned to their roots bearing the gift of vision. 

Northwest Indiana natives, LaTroy Hawkins and Kenny Lofton represented all Major Leaguers, when they participated in a free World Sight Day (October 13, 2016) vision event co-hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Trust and the Sydney, Australia based global campaign, Our Children’s Vision. 

The event was held at Williams Elementary School, in Hawkins’ hometown of Gary, and a long-toss, baseball throw from his grandmother’s house.

The Players Trust and Our Children’s Vision partnered to  amplify the importance of  World Sight Day, and the need for accessible eye care in America and globally. 

Eye health is too often taken for granted, and, if detected early, the majority of eye conditions in children are treatable or preventable.  Hawkins and Lofton were on hand to help communicate the importance of eye health and healthy vision, because when children struggle to see, they will struggle to learn, and they will struggle to play.

More than 250 enthusiastic elementary school students and local youth baseball players had comprehensive eye exams. Approximately 30% of those children required glasses, and they will receive their new glasses free of charge later this month. Children with glasses had their prescriptions reviewed by onsite volunteer optometrists, and if necessary were fitted for a new pair.   

Hawkins and Lofton had the opportunity to chat with students who were amazed to learn that these two former Major Leaguers, with more than 30 years of big league experience between them, walked in their shoes and had traveled the same path. 

Hawkins didn’t have his first eye exam until he had his first physical as a Major Leaguer.  "I was lucky I didn't have eye problems," Hawkins said. "Eyes are so important for everything.  It's about health, but it's really simple, every child should be able to see."

Lofton, a native of East Chicago, IN, was eager to return home on World Sight Day and for him it was very personal.  "My grandmother has glaucoma," he said. "That's why I feel like if she would have gotten it detected earlier her vision wouldn't have been as bad as it was."

"The idea is to use events like this to encourage the school authorities to start creating programs and implement policies around eye testing for children," Kovin Naidoo, the CEO of Brien Holden Vision Institute and Our Children's Vision campaign director said.

"Partnering with the Players Trust is very critical because it brings attention to a problem that's frequently neglected," he said.

Over 30 volunteers from Illinois Eye Institute, Princeton Vision Clinic, The Optical Foundation, Indiana University College of Optometry, Illinois College of Optometry, Moses Eyecare and Benavente Eyecare worked tirelessly to provide the children with eye exams - which, for many of the children, was the first time they have had their eyes checked so thoroughly.

The Players Trust and Our Children’s Vision urge everyone to take eye health seriously, by paying attention to signs that suggest an eye exam might be in order, such as:

  • Red, itchy and dry eyes
  • The sun feels too bright
  • Everything looks a bit fuzzy around the edges.

For more information, please visit Our Children’s Vision.