The WNBA's Diamond DeShields is working with Oakley and OneSight to hold a series of vision care clinics this year.

NEW YORK—Sports stars are often the subject of negative news stories and social media posts, and sometimes deservedly so, while their efforts at community service and good deeds go unnoticed. Yet, there are numerous examples of the latter—most recently a vision care clinic that the WNBA’s Diamond DeShields pulled together in Chicago—and these do not get as much attention. In an effort to flip-flop the news cycle and spotlight a few good-news stories about high-profile athletes, VMAIL Weekend is highlighting a few recent events in which athletes have stepped up to give back to their communities or to support health-related causes.

We begin this rundown on the South Side of Chicago. In late June, women’s professional basketball player Diamond DeShields, who has partnered with Oakley, stepped up to do something good in the town where she is making her mark in professional basketball. DeShields saw her long-hoped-for effort to provide free eye exams come to fruition with a two-day event at KIPP Bloom College Prep. 

It was the first in a series of vision clinics Oakley will sponsor with DeShields’ participation in 2021, and it provided almost 200 free eye exams. Most participants in the clinic—which was held in partnership with the organization OneSight—received prescribed eyeglasses on-site.

The team from OneSight conducted almost 200 eye exams last month on the South Side of Chicago.

DeShields, who plays for the Chicago Sky in the WNBA, was 15 when she was diagnosed with keratoconus and got her first pair of eyeglasses. She remembers putting on her glasses and staring up at the leaves. “I told my mom, ‘Wow I can see the leaves on the trees,’ ” DeShields told the Chicago Sun-Times.

She added, “You see a need and you try to fill it. … The South Side is a space in need. I live down here, this is my community. I can’t live here and not do something to positively impact the lives around me.”

“I’m thrilled that I could help connect families throughout Chicago with a much-needed medical resource—vision care,” DeShields noted in an announcement. “Vision care is essential and out of reach to many who are financially vulnerable and can’t afford it. This was a wonderful opportunity for our community, and I was proud to work and partner with Oakley and OneSight to bring this to the community.”

NBA Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens conducted a sports clinic for Native youth earlier this month with Rise Above, an organization working closely with tribes to build tailored education programs with basketball clinics at the center. (Tweet by The Spokesman-Review) 
Added K-T Overbey, president and executive director of OneSight, “It was a privilege to come alongside Oakley and Diamond DeShields of the Chicago Sky to host a vision clinic that supported the Chicago community. Clear sight has the power to changes lives, and we’re so grateful for volunteers and doctors that supported this event to ensure that lack of access to vision care is not a barrier for the Chicago community.” 

  • On the men’s side of professional basketball, former NBA star and Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens this month worked with Rise Above, a nonprofit working to empower Native-American youth through sports in the state of Washington.
Appearances by professional athletes and musicians, Wilkens said, present powerful images to the kids, since sports can help build a level of community and show the way to advance from unfortunate circumstances. Wilkens, 83, said sports helped him go beyond the adversity he experienced as a child after his father passed away when he was five.
“Basketball has given me the opportunities to travel the world and gain scholarships to college,” Wilkens said, according to the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. “People helped me when I was a youngster and let me know I could achieve and make the difference. If I can help them believe that, then I feel good about that change.”

Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers is working with several groups to raise awareness of Graves’ Disease and to help those living with the disease to "FOCUS" on their eye health.
  • Another example of a high-profile athlete taking time to help others and to raise awareness of a serious health condition is the story of Gail Devers, a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, who partnered with the Graves’ disease community to focus on Thyroid Eye Disease (TED). She has teamed up with Horizon Therapeutics in the effort. Devers has been living with Graves’ disease and symptoms of Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) for more than 30 years, as VMAIL reported.
Up to half of people living with Graves’ disease may develop TED—a serious, progressive and vision-threatening rare autoimmune disease that causes symptoms including eye bulging, double vision and debilitating pain behind the eyes.

“I struggled with life-changing symptoms for more than two years before I got answers—which is why I’m passionate about raising awareness today, so others don’t have to put their dreams on hold like I did,” Devers said.

Pro surfer Caroline Marks is playing a key role in the Eye Deserve More national campaign to bring awareness to the role optometrists play in delivering eyecare.
  • Earlier this year, Olympics-bound professional surfer Caroline Marks teamed with the American Optometric Association (AOA), to launch Eye Deserve More, a national campaign to bring awareness to the critical role optometrists play in eyecare and the overall health of Americans. Eye Deserve More is seeking to reinforce the idea that there is no substitute for in-person eyecare, as VMAIL reported.
“Since I was a child, I’ve gone to the optometrist annually for preventive measures because it’s the only way I truly know if my eyes are healthy,” Marks said. “Eye health is often overlooked even though it’s one of the most important factors in overall performance. Beyond just the need for good vision out on the water, my regular exposure to sun, wind and sand and attachment to my phone means my eyes are being put to the test every day.”