Special Olympics Athletes Receive World Class Eyecare
ATHENS, Greece—Essilor International and Safilo Group have continued their support of the Special Olympics and participated in the Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program at the Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Athens from June 25 to July 4.
Through this program, Essilor has provided lenses for prescription glasses to athletes with vision correction needs; while Safilo donated more than 80,000 optical frames and sunglasses between 2010 and 2011 for the athletes of Special Olympics. In addition, Safilo personnel often take an active part in the implementation of the events as volunteers.
This year’s World Games gathered together 7,000 Special Olympics athletes with intellectual and physical disabilities from more than 170 countries to compete in 22 Olympic-type sports. During this event, Essilor supplied more than 2,500 eyeglass lenses to the participating athletes, while the edging of the lenses was managed by the group’s Greek distributor Bairamoglou.
“Essilor is proud to be one of the partners that helps improve the athletes’ eyesight and consequently their sporting performance and daily lives. Almost four million athletes compete each year in Special Olympics events in over 150 countries and 40 percent of them need vision correction,” said Claude Darnault, Essilor’s chief sustainability officer.
Dr. Paul Berman, Founder and Sr. Global Clinical Advisor remarked, "It is amazing and gratifying that Special Olympics athletes from over 160 countries can receive world class eyecare from international eyecare professionals. Many of the prescriptions are life altering allowing the athlete to see clearly for the first time. It is a true indication of the power of our industry that includes eyecare professionals, the ophthalmic industry and Lions working together.
Ask Hicham Novara, a swimmer from Morocco, who competed at the Games despite a prescription of -22.00 in one eye and -13.00 in the other! He was never corrected. Such extreme myopia affected every aspect of Hicham’s life including his ability to interact socially. When he looked at his cell phone, he held it up less than two inches from his eye so he could see, and before the exam, he sat alone and only spoke with asked a question. But by the time he finished his eye exam, the impact on him was already evident. Wearing corrective lenses, he was smiling, talking to his coach, and proudly showing the volunteers pictures of his friends on his phone—while holding it at arm’s length.
“Essilor’s participation in the program has profoundly affected the quality of life of the athletes involved, improving not just their vision but their whole perspective towards their daily life,” said Smaragda Papadakis, director of training, PR and marketing for Bairamoglou SA. “We have been inspired by this work, and that is why we came to embrace the cause. Continuing on this path is not just important, it is necessary and life changing.”
Essilor has been involved since 2002 as the exclusive global supplier for corrective lenses to the Special Olympics-Lions Club International Opening Eyes vision care program; while Safilo’s involvement in the program began in 2003.
In addition to its corporate sponsors, Opening Eyes works with global partner Lions Clubs International, which provides funding for the program and volunteers to help at events. In Athens, more than 100 local Lions Clubs volunteers participated, as well as 82 professional volunteers. Local Greek vision care professionals including ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians also supported the program, taking time away from their own practices to help Special Olympics athletes.
Opening Eyes’ impact extends far beyond the close of the Games. By giving volunteers the opportunity to interact with Special Olympics athletes, the Games builds understanding, making the health care professionals more able to help people with intellectual disabilities once they return to their practices. And for those who want to get more involved, Opening Eyes provides formal training to allow volunteers to organize future events. In Athens, such “clinical directors” were trained from several countries around the globe, including Australia, Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Malta, New Zealand, and Pakistan.
For more information about the Special Olympics health programs, visit
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