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San Francisco nonprofit gives free eyeglasses to at-risk kids

JA: San Francisco nonprofit gives free eyeglasses to at-risk kids
JA: San Francisco nonprofit gives free eyeglasses to at-risk kids 03:57

SAN FRANCISCO - The head of a San Francisco nonprofit that's been a "rock" of support for at-risk children has expanded its vision to meet a critical need that arose during the pandemic.

Curt Yagi is recording videos and images of what will be a momentous day in the lives of more than a hundred students.

"Being able to see a lot of them - or experience a lot of them - see for the first time is going to be pretty amazing," Yagi smiled.

Yagi leads the latest project of Real Options for City Kids, or ROCK, the largest enrichment program for at-risk children living in San Francisco's Visitacion Valley neighborhood. When we first met him just before the pandemic, Yagi had spent 16 years building on the nonprofit's framework: from STEM projects and homework help to sports and fitness programs.

But in the last year, the executive director began to see kids' needs through a new lens.
"With the pandemic, kids just hadn't seen the doctor for a lot of reasons, and we knew that they need to see, 'cause when you can't see, it's hard to learn," he explained.

So Yagi crafted a one-day program at Visitacion Valley Middle School called Vision Day for students like 3rd grader Dominise Holmes of El Dorado Elementary School.

"Sometimes I can't see little things," she said.

Nine-year-old Dominise is getting her eyes checked for the first time. She's looking forward to receiving glasses.

"Yeah! I'm excited! I'm really looking forward to it. Why? 'Cause I'll be in the glasses club. It looks really cool. And I'll be able to see better," she said.

In this year's Vision Day, 120 students get a free eye exam and glasses. That's twice as many as the first event a year ago.
Yagi and his ROCK nonprofit partner with VSP's Mobile Vision Clinic, where four network optometrists volunteer for the all-day screenings. Besides the middle school students, doctors also see kids from three elementary schools - El Dorado, Vis Valley.. and Cleveland.

Students who need glasses choose from an array of donated frames. Minutes later, the mobile clinic grinds the lenses in the parking lot. Stronger prescriptions are sent to the students at a later date.

Then that magic moment: Yagi hands Dominise her new glasses.

"It's a whole new world! I can see the flowers over there. I can see everything," she exclaimed, spinning around to take it all in.

"A lot of kids don't realize they can't see, so it's even more special when they put glasses on and can see," Yagi beamed.

It's a gift Curt wants to keep giving: it can't be clearer than that.

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