Participating in the World Sight Day Challenge: A Gift That Keeps Giving

These efforts help build staff engagement and strengthen the community for a charitable – in perpetuity – cause.

Our practice, the Vision Clinic, first got involved with the World Sight Day Challenge almost two decades ago, and it continues to be one of the most rewarding things our practice does every year. I am a Vision Source Administrator, and many years ago, Brien Holden came to us explaining his Optometry Giving Sight vision. The worldwide lack of eye care availability was staggering! As optometrists, we were in a unique position to change that. Emphasizing that this initiative would be OPTOMETRY Giving Sight, it was rooted in the well-known proverb — give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime. How fitting that optometrists, whose life passion is to help people see, can make such a meaningful impact in helping people see…around the world!

When we first started working with Optometry Giving Sight and participating in World Sight Day, our efforts were specific to that day. As our enthusiasm and commitment grew, we expanded our fundraising efforts. Twelve years ago, we started our annual Vision Clinic/Optometry Giving Sight 5K, which we still host each year. It has become a piece of who we are. 

Getting Everyone on Board
No one can do anything on their own in a practice. As passionate as I was about the World Sight Day Challenge initially, it was imperative that all of Vision Clinic understood the why. When I came back to the practice and started discussing the organization and what we could do to support it, I was blessed to get full buy-in from owners, associates, and staff. One of our culture pillars is benevolence, so Optometry Giving Sight became our international charity of choice. With five locations and over a dozen doctors, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot locally to help internationally. Our commitment to the World Sight Day Challenge has not wavered.

My staff has been nothing short of amazing when it comes to being involved with the World Sight Day Challenge. It takes a lot of work to put our 5K together — we do raffles, pie-in-the-face contests, and this year we’ll have food trucks. There are a lot of moving parts to put this kind of event together — ensuring we have local police available to close the roads, securing liability insurance, getting vendors and sponsors on board — and our 5K committee coordinates everything. It’s something we start planning as early as March or April, and it’s humbling to see everyone get involved. The day of the race we always get so many people volunteering, donating, participating, and that has everything to do with my key people and their energy and commitment to this event. Every year, we always debrief the event and discuss what we want to do, and it’s amazing to see how eager our staff is to continue participating in the World Sight Day Challenge. 

Start with the Why
As a practice, we emphasize benevolence, and that becomes the backbone of everything we do. In fact, for new employee onboarding, we cover the “why” behind our World Sight Day participation, we educate on everything we’ve done for Optometry Giving Sight, and we let it be known that this is our international charity of choice. In addition, we weave it into our staff meetings throughout the year — planning, then celebrating — so everyone feels good about our efforts. We love to share the fact that we’re making a major difference and impacting people’s lives worldwide. 

Courtney Frerichs, a long-time patient at the Vision Clinic, is an Olympic silver medalist and holds the American 3,000M Steeplechase record, and she participates in Dr. Rice’s 5K for the World Sight Day Challenge.

Community Involvement
The community has also been behind us the whole way with efforts for the World Sight Day Challenge. The amount that we’ve been able to contribute to Optometry Giving Sight has only gone up over the years, which has been exciting to see. Our patients and community have really enjoyed participating and getting involved with us for this cause. 

For the most part, patients don’t know about Optometry Giving Sight until we start talking to them about it. Because we’ve been doing it for so long, our long-time patients have grown accustomed to this tradition, and they ask us months out when the 5K is going to be. 

As a practice, we do everything we can to get patients involved in other ways. Often, we’ll use the month of World Sight Day (October) to offer adjustments to patients’ glasses free of charge, with the hope that patients will donate to Optometry Giving Sight. We also have “jeans days” (staff donate $5 to Optometry Giving Sight to wear jeans), raffles, and 50/50 giveaways, which have been good ways to engage our staff and patients in giving. We let it be known in our office that the World Sight Day Challenge is important to us by displaying a lot of the patient-facing materials from Optometry Giving Sight so that our patients can learn more about it. We also post on social media to help educate our patients and our community about what we do for the World Sight Day Challenge and what Optometry Giving Sight is doing globally. 

Making a Difference
Honestly, after so many years of participating in the World Sight Day Challenge, the highlight of our participation is the pride in knowing that Vision Clinic, as a group and as individuals, is working to make a positive impact worldwide. I love Optometry Giving Sight — a simple but classic name that describes exactly what we’re doing. 

As a small business owner, I am well aware of the seemingly non-stop requests to contribute to, or sponsor, so many worthy causes. Realistically, we put this in a different bucket. That’s why we call it our international charity of choice. Consider making it your international charity of choice. You don’t have to do anything grandiose. We didn’t start with the massive event that we’re hosting today — we did a bunch of little things throughout the year. Even then, we were making a difference.

For some practitioners, it may not feel like it because it’s not something you can see right in your backyard. But we are optometrists who are concerned about vision, and we all know the importance vision plays in quality of life. I think that if you go to the root of what Optometry Giving Sight is, anything you can do to participate is a benefit. You don’t have to be a huge practice to get involved or do a huge event to make a difference. 

Your level of involvement in the World Sight Day Challenge is up to you. You can do a little or a lot. Whatever you do, you’ll find your staff, your patients, and you expanding the benevolence that is likely already a part of your practice to make change throughout the world.

Start somewhere, and just do it! 

  • Stephen Rice, OD

    Dr. Steve Rice received his Bachelor of Science degree (with honors) from SIU-E in 1983 and his Doctor of Optometry degree (with honors) from the University of Missouri-St. Louis School of Optometry in 1987. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry. Dr. Rice has previously served as the President of the Greater Ozarks Optometric Society, Trustee of the Missouri Optometric Association, and Chair of the Clinical/Educational Affairs Committee, Chair of the Missouri Optometric Political Action Committee, and Board Member of the Missouri Optometric Foundation. In addition, he is the State Administrator for Vision Source and was recognized as the Vision Source Administrator of the Year in 2008. He was awarded the Missouri Optometric Association's highest honor in 2012 when he received the Optometrist of the Year Award.

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